The abundance of salamanders in forest stands with different histories of disturbance
Pough, F. Harvey
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Because of the importance of salamanders in forest food chains, the effects of forest management practices on populations of these animals warrant consideration. We compared the numbers and activity patterns of salamanders in areas of a deciduous forest in central New York State that had been cut selectively for firewood, or clearcut, or planted with conifers. Numbers of salamanders were lower in three recently distrurbed habitats than in adjacent old-growth control stands. The frequency of above-ground activity by both species of salamanders was positively correlated with the density of understory vegetation and the depth of leaf litter. Small-scale habitat disruption associated with harvesting firewood increased the numbers of the terrestrial eft stage of the red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) but had no effect on numbers of red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus). A recently clearcut area had fewer red-backed salamanders than adjacent old-growth forest had, but the numbers of salamanders in a 60-year-old second-growth forest were indistinguishable from those in the adjacent old-growth forest. Populations of salamanders in a conifer plantation were low. Thus, salamanders seem to be resilient to limited disturbance of forests, but major changes are likely to affect populations of salamanders and, consequently, of birds and mammals that depend on salamanders for food.