Climate change water variability hurts salamander populations

September 06, 2019

MISSOULA - New research from the University of Montana suggests that streamflow variability brought on by climate change will negatively affect the survival of salamanders.

UM biology Professor Winsor Lowe and his partners studied spring salamanders living in five New Hampshire streams. Like many streams around the globe, these waterways are experiencing greater fluctuations between low and high flows brought about by climate change.

The researchers revealed that streamflow variability can kill salamanders while they are metamorphosing from larvae to adults. The work was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in an article titled "Hydrologic variability contributes to reduced survival through metamorphosis in a stream salamander."

"We feel this work is important because it expands our knowledge about the effects of climate change on a diverse group of species that are often overlooked because they spend most of their lives under rocks and logs in small, headwater streams," Lowe said. "Increasing environmental variability may be especially challenging for species that undergo metamorphosis - like many insects and amphibians - because that's a vulnerable period when they rely on stable environments for survival."

He said the research suggests society shouldn't focus on average conditions as it tries to understand and manage the effects of climate change. Scientists and managers also must pay attention to changes in environmental variability, which may increase with climate change.

"Small headwater streams are home to diverse species and the source of clean water to downstream communities, but these ecosystems are also easy to overlook and are losing protection under proposed Clean Water Act revisions," Lowe said. "Our work underscores the vulnerability of headwater ecosystems in this era of climate change, the need for protection of vulnerable headwater species, and the value of long-term monitoring efforts."

Using a 20-year dataset from Merrill Brook in New Hampshire, the researchers showed the abundance of spring salamander adults declined about 50% since 1999, but no trend was noted for larval abundance. Scientists then studied whether streamflow variability at Merrill Brook and streams in the nearby Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest affected the survival of salamanders metamorphosing from larvae to adults. They found that fewer salamanders survived metamorphosis during years when steamflow variability was high, leading to the decline in the adult population.
-end-
Lowe collaborated on this work with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, and the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. The paper is online at https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/09/04/1908057116.

The University of Montana

Related Climate Change Articles from Brightsurf:

Are climate scientists being too cautious when linking extreme weather to climate change?
Climate science has focused on avoiding false alarms when linking extreme events to climate change.

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.

Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.

A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).

Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.

Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.

Read More: Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.