Predicting variation in microhabitat utilization of terrestrial salamanders
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Herpetologica. 70(3): 259-265.
Understanding patterns of microhabitat use among terrestrial salamanders is important for predicting their responses to natural and anthropogenic disturbances. The dependence of terrestrial salamanders on cutaneous respiration limits their spatial distribution to moist, humid areas. Although many studies have shown negative effects of canopy removal on terrestrial salamander abundance, some have shown potential ameliorating effects of retaining coarse woody debris (CWD) as moist refugia (critical resources in the landscape). Because cover objects like CWD retain moisture longer than fine debris, terrestrial salamanders are often more locally abundant in areas of dense cover. Temporally variable environmental conditions could affect microhabitat quality and influence the fine-scale spatial distributions of salamanders. Spatial and temporal variability in microhabitat use greatly influence individual detectability, which is always a challenge for terrestrial salamanders. We conducted repeated area-constrained surveys to examine variation in salamander microhabitat use of terrestrial salamanders in relation to season, year, and weather conditions. We found that time since rain (TSR) was the best predictor of relative salamander microhabitat use, but the strength of this relationship varied among years. In addition, TSR was also the best predictor of salamander surface activity. We captured most salamanders within leaf litter, but the proportion of leaf litter captures varied with TSR. Our results illustrate the importance of accounting for variable detectability when sampling for terrestrial salamanders. Disturbances which affect leaf litter depth and decomposition rates could influence the availability and quality of microhabitats and potentially increase competition among individuals for natural cover objects.
KeywordsCoarse woody debris Detectability Interannual variation Leaf litter Plethodon serratus Southern Red-backed Salamander
O'Donnell, Katherine M.; Thompson, Frank R., III; Semlitsch, Raymond D. 2014. Predicting variation in microhabitat utilization of terrestrial salamanders. Herpetologica. 70(3): 259-265.