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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Mapping Climate Change Resistant Vernal Pools in the Northeastern U.S.


Vernal pools are small, seasonal wetlands that provide critically important seasonal habitat for many amphibian species of conservation concern. Natural resource managers and scientists in the Northeast, as well as the Northeast Refugia Research Coalition, coordinated by the Northeast CASC, recently identified vernal pools as a priority ecosystem to study, and recent revisions to State Wildlife Action Plans highlighted climate change and disease as primary threats to key vernal pool ecosystems. Mapping out the hydrology of vernal pools across the Northeast is an important step in informing land management and conservation decision-making.

Project researchers modeled the hydrology of roughly 450 vernal pools from West Virginia to Maine, using roughly 3,000 field observations of pool inundation. The resulting models provide a way to assess the relative resistance of vernal pools to changes in climate by (1) discerning relationships between vernal pool hydrology (i.e., patterns of inundation) and climate and landscape drivers, and (2) predicting likelihood of vernal pool inundation at several seasonal time points under a variety of weather and climate scenarios. In addition, researchers collected hydrologic data over the course of a year for 54 vernal pools for use in future studies.