UBC Undergraduate Research

A spatial analysis of terrestrial salamander distributions and disturbance levels in Pacific Spirit Regional Park Fang, Phyllis; Hester, Olivia; Milne, Emily; Wang, Kelly


Pacific Spirit Regional Park (PSRP) is a recreational forest locating at the east of University of British Columbia. The landscape of PSRP has been significantly altered by historical logging and more recent activities by park-goers, potentially degrading habitat for understory species. Assessment of forest ecosystem health is crucial to inform park management decisions and ensure the protection of the forest from future degradation. Terrestrial salamanders are lungless ectotherms so that they are sensitive to changes in climate and habitat. They provide many essential ecological functions including forest soil decomposition and carbon sequestration. Their innate sensitivity to the surrounding environment makes them suitable bio-indicators of forest health. In partnership with Metro Vancouver Regional Parks (MVRP), a preliminary survey for four terrestrial salamander species, Ensatina ( Ensatina eschscholtzii ), Long-Toed ( Ambystoma macrodactylum ), Northwestern ( Ambystoma gracile ), and Western Red-Backed ( Plethodon vehiculum ), was conducted in a portion of PSRP from late October to late November, 2018. This survey also included species of conservation concern, the Northern red-legged frog ( Rana aurora ), Pacific sideband snail ( Monadenia fidelis ), and Oregon forestsnail ( Allogona townsendiana ). A total of 51 randomly selected transects were manually searched. The effects of human disturbance, dog disturbance, and various environmental factors on terrestrial salamander distribution were also considered in the study. The survey found three Ensatina ( Ensatina eschscholtzii ) and three Western Red-Backed ( Plethodon vehiculum ) salamanders at a time density of 2.83 hours per salamander. No species of conservation concern were found. All salamanders were found in transects with low anthropogenic disturbance with a canopy cover greater than or equal to 70%. No relationship with dog-related disturbances was identified. Due to limitations on timing, seasonality and team size, further surveying is recommended throughout PSRP to determine terrestrial salamander distribution over the seasons and their implications to forest health.

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