Woodland vernal pools, small-scale forested depressions that flood in the spring and dry as summer progresses, are an essential and rapidly disappearing component of breeding habitat for numerous amphibian and macroinvertebrate species. Here we propose five multiple linear regression models to assist in the rapid assessment of vernal pools to conserve those with the greatest amphibian, aquatic macroinvertebrate, and herbaceous vegetation features. These models are based on samples taken from 21 pools distributed throughout the South Mountain landscape, a largely forested landscape matrix in south-central Pennsylvania. A comparison of the vegetative community of vernal pools and upland sites using Morisita's index of community similarity shows them to be quite distinct. Based on our analyses and models, we propose conserving woodland vernal pools that possess plant species indicative of seasonal inundation, a large water volume when inundated, high tree cover, presence of coarse woody debris, high phosphate level in the water, and low sphagnum presence along the pool perimeter. Vernal pools with high herbaceous, shrub, and tree diversity likewise predict high amphibian productivity (abundance). This rapid assessment is expected to be a set of invaluable tools for identifying and ranking woodland vernal pools for state and federal conservation agencies.
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Vol. 20 • No. 3