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Assessment of Ambystomatid salamander populations and their breeding habitats in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

November 23, 2020

This report presents abundance and occurrence data for three species of ambystomad salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum, A. jeffersonianum, and A. opacum) collected over a 3-year period (2000, 2001, and 2002) at 200 potentional breeding sies within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DEWA). In addition, numerous measures of inpond, near-pond, and landscape attributes were measured and used to inform statistical models to determine species-habitat relationships in the DEWA.

The results of a 3-year study of ambystomatid salamander breeding habits and habitats in the (DEWA) that was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the National Park Service, are described in the report. The objectives of the study were to document the population status and critical breeding habitats of the three species of ambystomatid salamanders known to be present in the DEWA—Ambystoma maculatum (spotted salamander), A. opacum (marbled salamander), and A. jeffersonianum (Jefferson salamander). DEWA managers are interested in ecological information on these species for several reasons. First, at the time the study began, there was little known regarding the status of pond-breeding amphibians and their habitats in the DEWA. Second, because they require undegraded habitats in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats to successfully complete their life cycles, the status of ambystomatid salamanders is widely viewed as indicative of overall ecosystem health. Third, because ambystomatid salamanders and other pond-breeding amphibians have been observed in numerous artificial impoundments with the DEWA, park managers would like to assess whether dismantling or discontinuing maintenance of artificial impoundments could affect pond-breeding amphibians and possibly other species that use pond or wetland habitats in the Park.

In 2001, 2002, and 2003, the size and location of 200 wetlands, ponds, and artificial impoundments, and related landscape positions (Ridge versus Valley; Pennsylvania side versus New Jersey side of the Delaware river) were mapped, and site habitat data relating to salamander occurrence and abundance patterns were collected. The data collected during this study provide important new baseline information on ambystomatid salamanders and wetland habitats in the DEWA that will enhance long-term inventory and monitoring efforts. In addition, breeding habitat assessments indicate that ambystomatid salamanders may be sensitive to a wide variety of stresses important in the DEWA and in the region. In particular, recent trends in development (for example, roads) in and near the DEWA, regional increases in the acidity of precipitation, and predicted long-term warming trends for the region could be detrimental to pond-breeding salamander populations because of their effects on breeding site quality and quantity, and on the integrity of migration corridors. In contrast, the results of the study indicate management plans to eliminate small impoundments are not likely to adversely affect salamanders in DEWA, at least in the short-term. However, it is possible that these small impoundments may offer stable habitats that provide a rescure effect during long-term droughts.

Publication Year 2020
Title Assessment of Ambystomatid salamander populations and their breeding habitats in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
DOI 10.3133/sir20205081
Authors Craig D. Snyder, John A. Young, James T. Julian, Tim L. King, Shanon E. Julian
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2020-5081
Index ID sir20205081
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Leetown Science Center; Eastern Ecological Science Center