We sampled the distribution of northern dusky salamander (Desmognathus fuscus) nests at randomly selected 15 m stream reaches throughout a third-order watershed in eastern Maryland. Our goal was to investigate the distribution of nests in relationship to physical habitat variables at three spatial scales: (1) watershed, (2) reach (15 m of stream), and nest-site (bank and adjacent channel within 1 m up and downstream of the nest). At the watershed scale there was a high probability (>0.75) of nest-site occurrence at reaches with watershed sizes <70 ha and gradients >2%. Among reaches with a high probability of nest-site occurrence, reaches with narrow channels located at the head of streams supported the largest number of nests. At the nest-site scale, females located nests adjacent to wider and deeper portions of streams. Overall, our results suggest that the headwater terminus of streams is important habitat for D. fuscus, and their dependence on these habitats may be responsible for their sensitivity to channel degradation resulting from watershed development.
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