Testing Rapid-Assessment Models for the Conservation of Woodland Vernal Pools in South-Central Pennsylvania

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The conservation of woodland vernal pools is a priority for land managers throughout the Northeast. They are a focus of conservation efforts because several amphibian species breed exclusively in these unique wetlands. Vernal-pool protection efforts could benefit from the development of rapid, cost-efficient, and accurate tools for assessing these temporally dynamic amphibian-communities. In this study, we evaluated a rapidassessment method comprised of 3 predictive equations that use measures of habitat quality as indicators of the diversity, richness, and abundance of amphibians in vernal pools in south-central Pennsylvania. To test the models, we implemented the suggested field protocol to acquire estimates of habitat quality. We entered these estimates into the predictive equations to provide projections of amphibian diversity, richness, and abundance. We then directly measured these amphibian-community metrics to compare them with the predicted values. We detected substantial disparity between the model predictions and our observed amphibian-community data, which indicated that the generalizability of these models might be limited. The source of this limitation is unclear, but might be due to the protocol design or the process by which the original models were parameterized. Although the rapid-assessment protocol was easily and quickly implemented, this method did not provide estimates of amphibian-community characteristics sufficient to warrant broader application. Future efforts to develop similar rapid-assessment models might profit from incorporating a broader suite of ecological and climatological variables, and they should account for the effects of interaction among the amphibian communities of geographically clustered wetlands.


Swartz, T. M., Stuart, E., Foster, D. K., & Lindquist, E. D. (2016). Testing rapid-assessment models for the conservation of woodland vernal pools in south-central pennsylvania. Northeastern Naturalist, 23(3), 339–351. https://doi.org/10.1656/045.023.0301