Did you know?
Habitat loss is the greatest single problem that effects population declines of rare wildlife.
In the northeastern United States, vernal pools are home to over 500 species. Changing climatic conditions are jeopardizing these important ecosystems as increasing temperatures and delayed rainfall alter hydroperiod and rising sea‐level threatens complete inundation.
Vernal pools are isolated, ephemeral wetlands characterized by a seasonal hydrology that holds water during the winter and spring, dries during the summer, and refills in the fall. Hydroperiod is determined by evaporation, water vapor transport, and precipitation and physical attributes such as proximity to other wetlands, size, surrounding vegetation, and access to groundwater. All of these factors are influenced by local weather conditions. As climate patterns shift, changes in precipitation and temperature will alter hydroperiods of vernal pools causing reproductive failure as amphibian larvae are unable to metamorphose before the pools dries. More severe changes may cause a complete loss of habitat if the pool completely dries or loses its seasonal timing.
In New Jersey, these pools are critical habitat for amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, migratory waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds. All 14 of New Jersey's frog species use vernal pools to breed and 2 endangered salamander species breed exclusively in vernal pools, including Cape May's eastern tiger salamander.
Historically, eastern tiger salamanders ranged from southern New York to northern Florida along the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Remaining eastern populations are disjunct and declining; the species is state endangered in NY, NJ, DE, MD, and VA and has already been extirpated in PA. New Jersey's Cape May populations may represent best chance of preventing complete extirpation from the Mid-Atlantic region.
Eastern tiger salamanders are limited to 15 breeding pools in Cape May County, one-third are at risk of inundation from sea-level rise in the next 100 years. Using EPA models of climate change-induced sea-level rise we have identified key breeding sites above this anticipated level. These sites are being targeted for enhancement and new pools are being created to link populations. By creating metapopulations, we are assisting the migration of these communities upland off the Cape May peninsula.
By expanding and restoring vernal‐pool habitat on protected land in Cape May County, we are creating sustainable vernal pool complexes that are adapted for changing weather patterns and ensuring that the communities of amphibians, migratory birds, reptiles, and invertebrates that depend on these habitats will persist. This is the first on-the-ground implementation of adaptive management for climate change in New Jersey.
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Learn about some of the newest species in decline in New Jersey. From the bottlenose dolphin to the fowler's toad, this special listing applies to a growing list of species. Learn ways to help these sensitive species in New Jersey.