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Factors influencing postmetamorphic survival of ambystomatid salamanders

Betsie Rothermel


Project description: We studied the effects of common forestry practices on dehydration rates of recently metamorphosed mole salamanders (Ambystoma talpoideum) and marbled salamanders (A. opacum). Salamanders were exposed to four forest treatments representing a range of disturbance levels: unharvested control, partial harvest, clearcut with coarse woody debris retained, and clearcut with coarse woody debris removed. Salamanders (n = 48 of each species) were confined to small, individual enclosures within each treatment for 48 hours in mid-summer 2005. We measured weight loss over this period to determine the rate of dehydration. As expected, dehydration rates were highest in the clearcut treatments, and the smallest species, A. opacum, had a higher dehydration rate. Only 33% of salamanders survived in the clearcuts with CWD removed, as compared to 46% in the clearcuts with CWD retained, 96% in the partial harvests, and 100% in the controls. Fire ant predation, rather than desiccation, was the primary cause of mortality for salamanders in our study.

Funding: NSF (Awards DEB-0242874 and DBI-0139572) and SREL (Financial Assistance Award DE-FC09-96SR18-546 between the University of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Energy)

Collaborators: K. J. Schlatter, T. M. Luhring

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