EFFECT OF RECREATIONAL TRAIL TRAFFIC LEVEL ON EASTERN RED-BACKED SALAMANDER (PLETHODON CINEREUS) RELATIVE ABUNDANCE
The effects of roads and trails on terrestrial salamanders, primarily plethodontids, can be important. The abundance of terrestrial salamanders often increases with distance from roads. Less is known about the effects of recreational or hiking trails on terrestrial salamanders than is known about the effects of roads. We explored how low and high traffic trails in a suburban biological reserve affect the relative abundance of Eastern Red-backed Salamanders (Plethodon cinereus). We found more salamanders under cover objects next to low traffic trails compared to either high traffic trails or wooded areas without trails. At wooded sites, we found only striped morphs whereas at high traffic sites we found only unstriped morphs. Low traffic sites included a range of color morph frequencies. The proportion of females found in each site did not differ, nor did the mean size of the salamanders. Our results suggest that the impact of recreational walking trails needs to be examined more closely to see how and why the distributions of P. cinereus, and potentially other woodland salamanders, are affected and what trail characteristics are important in driving the apparent effects. Such information will contribute to the design and maintenance of walking trails in natural areas that minimize effects on terrestrial salamanders, and likely other organisms.
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