Browsing Center for Earth and Environmental Science Student Work by Title
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Vernal Pool Status Following Two Major Disturbances (100 year flood and Hurricane Irene)Vernal pools are crucial for the survival of herpetofaunal species. These temporary ponds are necessary breeding sites for many amphibious species and act as safe refugia, as many lack permanent predators that would be encountered in other more constant water bodies. The goal of this survey was to relocate and map the area and contagion (i.e., patch isolation, arrangement) of 16 vernal pools located in Rugar Woods, which were previously inventoried by Cody Carpenter 2011. Additionally, we sought to assess these vernal pools, following two severe disturbances, specifically the 100 year flood and Hurricane Irene. A global positioning system (GPS) device was used to mark the size of each vernal pool and georeference them in GIS. Results suggest that large disturbances have affected the distribution and abundance of these pools at Rugar Woods. Specifically, several vernal pools (#7, 8, 9) have now merged into one large pool. Additionally, the abundance of vernal pools has gone from 16 to 7 since 2011. The merging of 3 smaller pools serves to increase area and may support greater species richness including predators, as it may be more permanent. In addition, loss of pools increases pool isolation, perhaps leading to genetic drift effects. Findings from this study offer insights into how large-scale disturbance events can influence herpetofaunal communities.
Wildlife Response to Wildfire at the Altona Flat Rock Pine Barren in Northern NYIn July of 2018, approximately 221 hectares of forest were burned in a wildfire at a sandstone pavement barren in Altona NY. Forest overstory is predominantly Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine) and Betula lenta (Black Birch), whereas understory is comprised of ericaceous shrubs and Pteridium aquilinum (Bracken Fern). Within weeks of the burn, Jack Pine’s sertoninous cone seeds had germinated and regeneration of fern stolons and birch stump sprouts appeared. We sought to monitor wildlife in response to forest regeneration at the sandstone pavement barren burn as compared to a reference (unburned) site. For this study, eight game cameras were installed along transects traversing the burn intensity gradient. Game cameras were equally distributed across the burn and reference sites and remained unbaited. Diel wildlife activity was made possible using camTrap package in R Studio, which organizes image files according to metadata (e.g., time, temperature, species) and facilitates interpretation. Species recorded in the burn sites were, Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer), Canis latrans (Eastern Coyote), Leporidae (Rabbit family), Lynx rufus (Bobcat), Procyon lotor (Raccoon), and Pekania pennanti (Fisher). In addition to these species, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus (Red Squirrel), Sciurus carolinensis (Gray Squirrel) and Bonasa umbellus (Ruffed Grouse) were observed in the reference but not the burn sites. In fall 2018, species richness was greater (n = 9) on the reference versus the burn sites (n = 6). In addition, there was greater wildlife abundance (n = 98) at the reference versus the burn sites (n = 44). Diel activity differed for some species between sites, in particular White-tailed Deer activity was crepuscular at the reference site, with activity peaks at both 8am and 6pm, as compared to a single longer duration morning activity bout on the burn. Biodiversity typically responds positively to wildfire in response to regeneration; however this was not observed in the first season following the disturbance. Continued monitoring of wildlife in response to wildfire may reveal differing patterns as the forest continues to succeed.