Riparian habitat of streams used for breeding by the Streamside Salamander (Ambystoma barbouri) in middle Tennessee
Daniel B. Estabrooks and Brian T. Miller
The Streamside Salamander (Ambystoma barbouri) is a stream-breeding ambystomatid that occurs in southeastern Indiana, southern Ohio, and central Kentucky, with disjunct populations forming the southern portion of the range in the Central Basin (CB) of Tennessee. Because of limited geographic distribution and association with low order, ephemeral streams that generally flow through hardwood forests, this species is under consideration by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The CB of Tennessee is a mosaic of habitat types with relatively small patches of forest interspersed amidst agricultural and residential lands, and many of the low-order streams have little, if any, riparian habitat that is forested. We characterized riparian habitat of 14 low-order streams in the CB that were used for breeding during the 2007–2008 and 2008–2009 seasons as forest, agriculture, or residential land. We calculated the percent coverage of these three habitat types in an area that extended 250 m and 500 m from the length of each section of stream in which we counted eggs. Riparian habitat was dominated by agricultural land (pastures and row crops), although at least a small amount of forest cover was found near most streams; thus, terrestrial stages of the Streamside Salamander likely inhabited agricultural land in the CB. Residential land was less prevalent in the vicinity of breeding sites than either agricultural land or forested land. Middle Tennessee, including the CB, is experiencing significant human population growth, a trend predicted to continue for at least the next two decades. The conversion of much of the agricultural and forested lands in the region into subdivisions potentially will negatively affect local populations of this species of conservation concern.
Key Words.— abundance, Central Basin, conservation, distribution, egg counts, population density, reproduction, terrestrial habitat