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Influence of Headwater Site Conditions and Riparian Buffers on Terrestrial Salamander Response to Forest Thinning

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Although thinning of young, even-aged forests may accelerate the development of characteristics associated with mature forests, in the short term it may negatively affect some taxa, including terrestrial salamanders. Preexisting site conditions, including down wood, and forest management measures, such as riparian buffers, may moderate these effects, but these relationships are poorly understood. To explore whether down wood and riparian buffer widths might influence short-term responses to thinning, we sampled salamanders using ground searches before and during the first 2 years after experimental thinning at two 45- to 65-year-old headwater forest sites in western Oregon that differed in down wood volume. Prethinning distributions of terrestrial salamanders overlapped one- and two-tree height riparian buffers, and except for red-backed salamanders, overlapped very little with narrower streamside or variable-width buffers. At the site where down wood volume was low, captures of ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii Gray) and western red-backed salamanders (Plethodon vehiculum Cooper) both declined by 40% in thinned areas. In contrast, captures of ensatina and Oregon slender salamanders (Batrachoseps wrighti Bishop) were not significantly affected by thinning at the site where down wood volume was high. Our results suggest that site conditions, such as down wood volume, and riparian buffers may influence the effect of thinning on terrestrial salamanders, and demonstrate the tight linkage among management of aquatic, riparian, and upslope resources in headwater forests.
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Keywords: amphibians; cover use; density management; down wood; refugia

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 April 2007

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