Date of Award

January 2012

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Stephen C. Richter

Department Affiliation

Biological Sciences

Abstract

Forested freshwater wetlands have undergone loss and alteration more than other types of wetlands. Wetland creation has slowed wetland losses, but many created wetlands do not functionally replace natural wetlands. Plant and animal communities and wetland drying cycles often differ between natural and constructed wetlands. It is important to understand what specific habitat characteristics differ between natural and constructed wetlands and what impact these differences might have on the animal assemblages. Having restrictive habitat requirements makes the four-toed salamander a good candidate for study. The objectives of this study were to understand four-toed salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum) nesting ecology and nest-site characteristics and to determine if these differ between natural and constructed wetlands. Another objective was to add to our knowledge of the natural history of the species in Kentucky. Six natural and six constructed wetlands were studied in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky during 2011. Several nest- and wetland-level variables were measured in each wetland and at each nest site. Data were collected at 207 nests (133 nests in natural wetlands, and 74 nests in constructed wetlands). Multiple regression analyses indicated that four-toed salamander eggs were more abundant in natural wetlands (P = 0.03), although there were more eggs per nest in constructed wetlands (P < 0.001). There were more nests in wetlands with more moss (P < 0.001), and amount of moss available for nesting was more limited in constructed wetlands. Constructed wetlands were similar in many measured characteristics to those in natural wetlands, and the results underscore the importance of abundant moss and moisture for nesting substrate. However, this study was unable to address embryonic and larval survival in natural and constructed wetlands. In the absence of such data, long-term population monitoring with nest surveys is recommended to determine if this species is impacted by greater predation in constructed wetlands.

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