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1 March 2010 Salamander Use of Karst Sinkholes in Montgomery County, Virginia
Karen E. Francl, Clayton R. Faidley, Christine J. Small
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To better understand salamander-habitat relationships in karst sinkholes, we surveyed 25 sinkholes and three upland control sites at the Selu Conservancy (Montgomery County, VA) in the spring and summer of 2008. At each site, we measured 26 habitat parameters (e.g., number/decomposition stage of downed logs and snags, soil moisture, soil temperature, canopy coverage, leaf-litter depth). With these data, we questioned if sinkholes supported higher salamander densities than non-sinkhole habitats, if salamander densities changed throughout the spring and summer months in response to changes in soil temperature and soil moisture, and which microhabitat measures were most strongly correlated with average salamander densities. In seven rounds of surveys, we captured 292 Plethodon cinereus (Eastern Red-backed Salamanders) and 223 Plethodon glutinosus (Northern Slimy Salamanders). Although we found that capture success did vary among rounds, we found no significant differences in salamander densities between sinkholes and upland sites. We discovered a weak positive relationship between total captures per round and percent soil moisture. Non-metric multidimensional scaling ordination suggested that capture success for both species was markedly lower in sinkholes in and surrounded by early successional habitats than those within a forest matrix. Indirect indicators of soil fertility (e.g., percent organic matter, bryophyte cover, litter depth) were correlated to salamander capture success. Our study serves as a springboard for an ongoing project that examines patterns in salamander genetic diversity across a wider range of sinkholes with varying historical land-use patterns.

Karen E. Francl, Clayton R. Faidley, and Christine J. Small "Salamander Use of Karst Sinkholes in Montgomery County, Virginia," Southeastern Naturalist 9(1), 35-46, (1 March 2010).
Published: 1 March 2010

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