Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


Effects of Network Structure on Stream Salamanders

The role of stream network structure in driving salamander population dynamics needs more attention.  Although several studies have examined the effects of stream habitat and interspecific interactions on salamander populations, the role of the spatial structure of stream networks in mediating population processes for stream salamanders is poorly understood.  However, the role of stream network structure is vital because it will likely be altered by future changes in landscape pattern and climate regimes.  Conservation efforts for stream salamanders will need to consider factors that may alter the structure of stream networks because this may alter dispersal rates and affect population dynamics.

This project initiated sampling of four species of stream salamanders (Desmognathus fuscus, D. monticola, Eurycea bislineata, and Gyrinophilus porphyriticus) in Shenandoah National Park during the summer of 2012.  The objectives of this project are to compare the abundance of different life stages of salamanders at locations across stream networks, and to examine the relationship between the presence of salamanders and water temperatures in headwater streams.

Temporary removal sampling of stream salamanders provides abundance estimates of different life stages of the four salamander species in this study.  These data will be used with data from prior studies of stream salamanders in the region in order to test theoretical predictions about how dispersal and stream network structure may interact to affect salamander populations.  This will result in better information about processes that may limit population growth, and this will be important to for future conservation efforts involving these species.

This project will also use stream salamander data to model how the presence of different salamander life stages is affected by stream temperatures.  Water temperatures will be obtained with data loggers placed throughout headwaters in selected watersheds at Shenandoah National Park.  Occupancy models will be developed using current data, and these results will be applied to models of future climate scenarios to determine how these species might respond to climate change.


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