Clearcutting and other forest management practices that remove canopy and disturb ground cover may exacerbate the risk of desiccation, particularly for newly metamorphosed amphibians. We examined dehydration rates of juvenile Mole Salamanders (Ambystoma talpoideum) in relation to burrow availability in four experimental forest management treatments. Juvenile salamanders (N = 41) were confined to small enclosures in four treatments representing a range of habitat disturbance: clearcut with coarse woody debris (CWD) removed; clearcut with CWD retained; thinning; and an unharvested control of second-growth, mature loblolly pine. Half of the salamanders in each habitat treatment were provided with artificial burrows. Water loss over 72 h was significantly higher in the clearcut with CWD retained than in the other three treatments. Most water loss occurred during the first two nights, when salamanders may have been most active. Only 40% of salamanders without burrows survived in the clearcuts, versus 90% in the thinned stand and 100% in the control. Ninety percent of the salamanders with access to a burrow survived in the clearcuts versus 100% in the thinning and control. We found no correlation between soil moisture and water loss and attribute higher desiccation rates in the clearcuts to high temperatures (> 44°C). Although habitat changes resulting from thinning did not lead to increased desiccation, complete canopy removal greatly increased risk of mortality caused by desiccation. Our results also demonstrate that this risk is strongly mediated by the availability of burrows.
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