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Understanding the Future of Red-Backed Salamanders as an Indicator of Future Forest Health


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. Results from this project will illuminate 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, the scientists can use the information to make inferences about rare and declining species. The researchers studied multiple red-backed salaamander populations across the range of the species, which primarily occurs in mature deciduous forests across the northeastern half of North America. They found evidence that salamanders will be negatively impacted by warmer temperatures and drier conditions, both in terms of 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 for the salamanders to forage or find mates.