Salamanders an Abundant Food Source more than Expected

COLUMBIA, Mo. – First of all, In the 1970s, ecologists published species results from one of the first whole-forest ecosystem studies. More importantly, first ever conducted in Hubbard Brook, New Hampshire. In the paper, scientists reported salamanders represent the largest sources of biomass and food. Yet also food for all vertebrates in the forest landscape. So to be sure, they use sampling and statistical techniques not available during the past study. As a result, researchers at the University of Missouri reported the population of salamanders. Likewise in forested regions of the Missouri Ozarks are 2-4 times higher than originally thought. In addition and in other regions of the eastern U.S. averaging 10 times higher.

So scientists are acknowledging salamanders main food sources in forest ecosystems. That could help drive conservation efforts and forest management.

There are two methods for estimating abundance. One is to simply count salamanders and plot the numbers on a grid. A grid representing the forest landscape. That is how the estimates were calculated in the 1970s. However, Semlitsch’s group, armed with the knowledge that salamanders are underground at any given time was a better move.

Therefore they captured animals on the surface. That was during intensive repeated surveys. Surveys over two years and used statistical modeling. Modeling to produce a more thorough accounting of even variation. Especially in salamander population density.

“.abundance models take into account all environmental factors,” Semlitsch said.

Semlitsch believes that future research should consider the importance of amphibians to ecosystem processes. Processes such as soil enrichment. Future forest management techniques and protection. Bottom line here, salamanders are important to healthy forest ecosystems.

The study, “Abundance, biomass production, nutrient content, and the possible of terrestrial salamanders in Missouri Ozark forest ecosystems,” was published in the Canadian Journal of Zoology. Also funded in part by U.S. Forest Service cooperative Agreement with support from the Missouri Department of Conservation. Katie O’Donnell, a doctoral student in the Division of Biological Sciences at MU, and Frank Thompson, director of the Forest Service Experimental Station at MU, co-authored the paper.

Source: University of Missouri

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