Biomass harvesting removes unmarketable vegetative material from timber harvests for use as cellulosic bioenergy, leaving only leaf litter. To test whether biomass harvests negatively affect red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus) populations, we set up coverboard arrays at 10 sites (mean 3.29 ha, range 2.35–4.61 ha) with varying degrees of biomass harvesting at the Southeast Purdue Agricultural Center (SEPAC) in Jennings County, Indiana. We monitored salamander artificial cover object (ACO) arrays within each site from spring 2012 to fall 2015 and marked all salamanders with visible implant elastomers, generating capture histories for all individuals. Using Program MARK and Pollock's robust design we developed 10 a priori candidate models to test salamander population parameters, with variations on capture probability, recapture probability, survival, emigration, and immigration, as well as a set of models comparing preharvest and postharvest data. To incorporate precipitation events, we classified sessions as wet or dry based on total rainfall prior to sampling. The best performing models were those that incorporated the year, season, and amount of precipitation when estimating capture probabilities. Linear regression results showed percentage of canopy cover and Downed Coarse Woody Derbies (DCWD) were significant predictors of salamander abundance. We also found no significant relationships between survival, DCWD, and canopy cover. Our results suggest DCWD has some impact on variations in population sizes of red-backed salamanders, although other factors are likely contributing as well.
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Vol. 178 • No. 1