Implementing the Millennium Power Plant Conservation Plan .pdf

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					Next Steps; Where From Here?                                                                                                                                                   Why the Marbled Salamander?                               A Partnership for Conservation
                                                            Implementing the

                                                                                        Department of Natural Resources Conservation • University of Massachusetts • Amherst
The Landscape Ecology Research Team at the                                                                                                                                     The marbled salamander is the rarest salamander           During the permitting process for the Millennium
                                                            Millennium Power Plant
University of Massachusetts has constructed the                                                                                                                                in Massachusetts. It is listed as a "threatened"          generating plant in Charleton, Massachusetts, it
research infrastructure for an unparalleled long-term
                                                            Conservation Plan:
                                                                                                                                                                               species and is protected by the state’s Endangered        was determined that, due to potential impacts to
study of amphibian populations in western                                                                                                                                      Species Act. Marbled salamanders are threatened,          marbled salamanders, a conservation permit was
Massachusetts. This study offers an opportunity             Marbled Salamander                                                                                                                                                           required under the Massachusetts Endangered
                                                                                                                                                                               in part, because suburban development and
to address many research questions with great               Research and Conservation                                                                                          roadways eliminate important habitat and prevent          Species Act. The final conservation plan included
conservation importance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 three strategies to promote marbled salamander
                                                                                                                                                                               them from reaching their breeding ponds.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         conservation in the vicinity of the power plant
• How big an area is needed to support a healthy
                                                                                                                                                                               These cryptic creatures                                   and throughout the state.
  amphibian population over time?
                                                                                                                                                                               spend all day and most
                                                                                                                                                                               nights underground,                                               Habitat Conservation: acquisition and
• How independent or interconnected are amphibian
                                                                                                                                                                               emerging only to snatch a                                         protection of important upland habitat
  populations from different breeding sites in the
                                                                                                                                                                               passing cricket or worm.                                          around the power plant
  same vicinity?
                                                                                                                                                                               While spending most of
• How do roads and development affect the movement                                                                                                                             their lives in dry wood-                                          Habitat Creation: increasing the number
  of salamanders to and from breeding ponds and                                                                                                                                lands, marbled salamanders                                        of salamanders and enhancing the
  the dispersal of individuals in search of new                                                                                                                                depend on unique wet-                                             long-term viability of the local population
  breeding sites?                                                                                                                                                              lands called vernal pools                                         by creating additional breeding pools
                                                                                                                                                                               for breeding. These pools
Answering these seemingly basic questions about                                                                                                                                                                                                  Targeted Research: funding research at
                                                                                                                                                                               dry up almost every
how marbled salamanders live will allow natural                                                                                                                                                                                                  the University of Massachusetts to better
resource professionals to go the next step - to determine                                                                                                                      summer, but fill with water
                                                                                                                                                                               in the winter and spring,                                         understand salamander habitat use and
what habitat conditions these animals need to thrive                                                                                                                                                         vernal pool                         movement patterns
in the future. With this new information, public and                                                                                                                           creating a rich and fish-free
private conservation partners alike may finally have                                                                                                                           aquatic habitat for many young amphibians                 The University of Massachusetts has been funda-
the odds in their favor in their efforts to keep these                                                                                                                         and invertebrates.                                        mentally involved in implementing this conservation
wonderful creatures around in our Massachusetts                                                                                                                                                                                          plan. This exciting project has already produced
woodlands.                                                                                                                                                                     Unlike other amphibians in Massachusetts,                 success stories for the marbled salamander,
                                                                                                                                                                               marbled salamanders mate and lay their eggs in            prompting media coverage on regional radio
For more information contact:                                                                                                                                                  late summer and early fall. Eggs deposited in dry         programs and National Geographic Television.
Kevin McGarigal, Ph.D.                                                                                                                                                         vernal pools hatch after they are flooded by
Landscape Ecology Program*                                                                                                                                                                                                               Research is shedding light on the life history of
                                                                                                                                                                               autumn rains and the tiny salamander larvae               the elusive marbled salamander and other unique
Department of Natural Resources Conservation
                                                                                                                                                                               over-winter beneath the ice in these pools. In the        vernal pool amphibians, providing critical
University of Massachusetts
                                                                                                                                                                               spring, these larvae are important predators of           information for conservation decision-making.
Amherst, MA 01003
                                                                                                                                                                                                         insect larvae, crustaceans
                                                                                                                                                                                                         and tadpoles. They transform
*The Landscape Ecology Program is an integrated program                                                                                                                                                  into terrestrial juveniles in
in teaching, research, and outreach promoting sustainable
                                                                                                                                                                                                         May or June and spend
landscape management. To learn more about this program,
visit the program's website (                                                                                                                                                      the rest of their lives on
                                                                                                                                                                                salamander larva         land as forest animals.
                                                                                        Accomplishments to Date
Habitat Conservation                                  Targeted Research - Highlights                                                                                       Habitat Creation - Constructed Vernal Pools
                              In addition to land     With funding provided as a component of the conservation plan, UMASS biologists have initiated an                                                   In 1999, three vernal
                              around the power        intensive study of marbled salamander ecology at a research site in South Hadley, MA. The research is                                               pools were constructed
                              plant that was set      uncovering critical information about salamander biology. Here are some early findings:                                                             in the vicinity of the
                              aside for salamander                                                                                                                                                        power plant and one
                              habitat, broader                Picky About Ponds. Not all ponds look the same to a salamander. At our study sites, most                                                    known breeding site for
                              habitat conservation            marbled salamanders are utilizing ponds with medium-length hydroperiods (the length of time a                                               marbled salamanders.
                              efforts have emerged            pond holds water). Perhaps this is because they provide the most reliable dry nesting areas, but         constructed vernal pool            In addition to increas-
as a result of research and technical assistance              hold water long enough for larvae to reach metamorphosis in the late spring.                                                                ing the number of
provided by the University of Massachusetts.                                                                                                                                salamander populations, it is hoped that the
                                                              "Boom and Bust" Breeding Cycles. A successful breeding season may indeed be rare for                          establishment of an interconnected network of
• After intensive survey efforts, the UMASS                   marbled salamanders in Massachusetts. There are countless weather-related variables that must be              pools will provide greater long-term stability for
  research team identified three top priority                 perfect for salamanders to hatch, survive and transform into young land creatures. The result is a            salamanders in the area. A UMASS biologist
  conservation areas for marbled salamanders                  boom and bust cycle with frequent busts! The successful years must compensate for the poor ones,              consulted in the design of these constructed pools
  in Massachusetts.                                           and good years may produce thousands of tiny salamanders from a single breeding pond.                         and researchers from the University have monitored
                                                                                                                                                                            the pools since their creation. Here is what we
• Within these priority conservation areas, at                The Longest Mile. Marbled salamanders travel impressive distances away from their breeding                    have found so far.
  least seven parcels of land totaling over 220               ponds, sometimes over a half-mile! In our study, over half of newly emerged salamanders passed               Seven amphibian species are already using the
  acres have been purchased by the state and                  a 100-foot barrier within days of leaving their pond; one was found over 3000 feet from the pool             constructed pools for breeding and/or non-breeding
  private conservation trusts to advance marbled              where it hatched only a few weeks before. These data suggest that these are truly terrestrial animals,       habitat. These include spotted salamanders, red-
  salamander conservation. These lands also offer             and that protecting upland habitats is just as important as protecting breeding wetlands.                    spotted newts, spring peepers, gray treefrogs,
  refuge to several other rare salamanders and                                                                                                                             wood frogs, green frogs and bullfrogs.
  turtles and provide broader wildlife conservation           Natural Navigators. Marbled salamanders appear to be amazing navigators. Not only do they
                                                              return to the same breeding pond for several years, but each salamander enters and leaves from               A variety of invertebrates have also colonized
  and recreational values.
                                                              precisely the same direction. This suggests that these animals may establish a home territory where          these pools. Most are aquatic insects, including
                                                              they return year after year.                                                                                 dragonflies, damselflies, beetles, water scorpions,
                                                                                                                                                                           mayflies, caddesflies, midges and other fly larvae.
                                                                                                                 All Populations Are Not Created Equal.                    These constitute an important food base for larval
                                                                                                                 A great number of variables affect whether a rare         salamanders.
                                                                                                                 species like the marbled salamander will survive in       These pools will be closely monitored by UMASS
                                                                                                                 a given locality. Some habitats called “sources”          researchers for marbled salamanders in coming
                                                                                                                 produce an abundance of animals most generations          years. If after five years, marbled salamanders
                                                                                                       that can disperse to surrounding areas. Other habitats              do not naturally colonize the constructed pools,
                                                                                                       called “sinks” rely on the immigration of animals from              they will be "seeded" with larvae from nearby sites.
                                                                                                       source areas to maintain healthy populations. What does             Data collected from these pools
                                                                                                       this mean for protecting rare species? Conservation areas           are an important component of
                                                                                                       must be large enough to accommodate many diverse                    long-term research aimed at
                                                                                                       populations to ensure long-term success.                            addressing important issues affecting
  eastern box turtle                                  adult marbled salamander
                                                                                                                                                                           salamander conservation.

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