Characterizing Local and Rangewide Variation in Demography and Adaptive Capacity of a Forest Indicator Species
Climate change will have sweeping impacts across the northeast, yet there are key gaps in our understanding about whether species will be able to adapt to this changing environment. This project illuminated local and region-wide changes in forest ecosystems by studying the red-backed salamander, a species that is a strong indicator of forest conditions. This study identified habitat and forest characteristics that improve the resiliency of forest dwelling amphibians and other wildlife to climate change. Further, by studying a foundational species in forest floor ecosystems, others can use the information to make inferences about rare and declining species. This project found evidence that salamanders will be negatively impacted by hotter temperature and drier conditions, both in terms in how well they might survive but also in their ability to move around on the forest floor. With reductions in surface activity, there are less opportunities to forage or find mates. Lastly, given the collaborative nature and scope of this project, we will be able to advance scientific education through multiple means: training current and upcoming scientists, encouraging primary school student’s participation in STEM fields, and increasing scientific literacy about climate change through education exhibits at nature centers and zoos.
News: June 19, 2017. Researchers studying impact of warming condition on woodland salamanders. Penn State News