Limitations of regulated “buffer zones” for the conservation of marbled salamanders

  • Gamble L
  • McGarigal K
  • Jenkins C
 et al. 
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Most amphibians that breed in seasonal wetlands are predominantly terrestrial animals that require “upland” habitats for the majority of their life cycles. However, wetland regulations aimed partially at protecting wildlife values are often limited to the wetland basins and small terrestrial “buffer zones” that typically extend 30 m or less from the wetland edge. In this study, we assessed whether a common buffer zone (i.e., 30 m) is sufficient for the conservation of marbled salamanders ( Ambystoma opacum ). We installed and monitored two concentric and continuous drift fence arrays (3 m and 30 m from the pond margin) around each of three seasonal ponds in western Massachusetts, USA. We quantified the numbers and percentages of breeding adults and emerging juvenile salamanders that immigrated from and/or emigrated beyond the 30-m fences. In addition, we recorded incidental year-of-emergence captures of juveniles at more distant drift fences that were in place for a broader study. Of the breeding adults captured immigrating to the basins at 3-m fences, 84–96% were first captured at 30-m fences, and corrections for capture probabilities suggested that nearly 100% of these individuals originated beyond 30 m from their breeding sites. Of the newly emerging juveniles captured emigrating from the basins at 3-m fences, 58–85% were subsequently captured at 30-m fences and 284 juvenile captures were recorded at distances between 111 and 1,230 m (median = 269.2 m) from natal ponds. Our findings highlight the dramatic limitations of existing wetland regulations with regard to upland habitat use by mole salamanders (family Ambystomatidae) and the need to approach conservation of these animals both at broader scales and with more comprehensive and innovative strategies.

Author-supplied keywords

  • ambystoma
  • amphibian
  • buffer zone
  • dispersal
  • ephemeral wetland
  • marbled salamander
  • pool
  • seasonal wetland
  • terrestrial habitat
  • vernal
  • wetland regulation

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  • Lloyd R. Gamble

  • Kevin McGarigal

  • Christopher L. Jenkins

  • Brad C. Timm

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