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Case Study: Salamanders that Call Our Forests Home
Our scientists have a host of reasons to study salamanders. For one, they’re extremely sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, making them an indicator species that readily shows if forest conditions are harming them. Beyond that, some salamander species on our lands are protected by federal or state law, so we have a regulatory responsibility to make sure they’re thriving.
“If you’re a small salamander 2 to 3 inches long, you have to make do with conditions in your immediate environment,” says Dr. AJ Kroll, a Weyerhaeuser scientist conducting research in the Pacific Northwest. “If those conditions aren’t sufficient, you’ll have trouble surviving.”
In Arkansas, our scientists are working with researchers at the University of Arkansas to study how riparian stream buffers affect both water quality and biodiversity. Two years into a three-year study, they have already sampled 85 different streams across Arkansas and found 33 amphibian and reptile species.
The data we’re gathering will help us understand whether our management practices are having a positive effect on biodiversity or whether we need to change. Results so far appear to show that riparian buffers and the mixture of stand age and forest structure at larger spatial scales are providing habitat for a wide range of salamanders, frogs, toads, snakes and lizards.
Our scientists in the Pacific Northwest have been conducting research in our forests in Oregon and Washington for nearly a decade. In 2006, we started a study of aquatic salamanders to ensure we were meeting regulatory standards for operating in their habitat; we met the standards with flying colors. Three years ago, we partnered with Oregon State University to start a new long-term study of terrestrial salamanders. The study will last until 2020 and, similar to our work in Arkansas, will determine how forestry management is impacting the salamanders.
We'll continue to study salamanders to better understand their sensitivity to the environment. They may be small, but they play a big part in how we operate sustainably.