Jon Atwood, PhD
Department of Environmental Studies
Ski areas have been a part of the Vermont landscape for over 50 years. As these recreational facilities continue to expand there is growing concern over their impact on flora and fauna living on the fragile terrain and in the waterways of high elevation areas. Because salamanders are an important part of the food web in New England forests, any impacts that ski area development might have on then could have community-level repercussions. I compared populations of three species of aquatic salamanders in seven stream located in ski areas with seven control streams located in more “pristine” landscapes, defined as areas that are unimpacted by any recent human activity. Both the Northern Dusky (Desmognathus fuscus) and Spring salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus) populations were significantly lower in the ski area streams, whereas numbers of the Tow-lined Salamanders (Eurycea bislineata) did not differ significantly between the two stream types. Northern Dusky Salamanders in the control streams were also significantly larger in mean body length that those found in ski area streams. Although further investigation is clearly desirable, patterns observed here suggest that some as yet uncertain aspect of ski area development may negatively impact populations of Northern Dusky and Spring Salamanders in Vermont.