Effects of deforestation on microhabitat suitability for salamander communities

Kaitlin Watrud

Advisor:  Dr. Gerardo Carfagno Kaitlin Watrud

The objective of this study was to determine the impact of recent selective logging on the community of salamanders at Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve, a privately owned, non-profit education and conservation organization in south-central, Pennsylvania.  I hypothesized that salamander communities would be negatively impacted by the effects of selective logging.  I predicted a lower abundance of salamanders in logged areas compared to undisturbed areas, and that logged areas would exhibit significantly different microclimates compared to undisturbed areas.  Study sites were established along one of the preserve’s streams to compare the abundance and distribution of salamanders in riparian buffer zones with undisturbed forest patches.  Soil temperature, leaf litter, canopy cover, soil moisture and salamander cover types were also compared between the two habitat types to test for microclimate preferences by terrestrial and aquatic salamander guilds.  No significant difference was found between salamander abundances in logged and unlogged areas. However, significant differences were found in salamander distribution patterns with a higher proportion of salamanders restricted to areas closer to the stream in logged areas compared to unlogged areas. Logged and unlogged habitat differed only in that unlogged areas had a higher soil temperature and canopy cover. Analysis of salamander cover types revealed a preference for rock and log cover, with aquatic salamanders selecting rock cover and terrestrial salamanders selecting log cover.  While the use of riparian buffer zones may have limited the effects of logging, some of my results suggest that logging may have had subtle negative effects on the salamander communities of the preserve.