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USGS Responds to Amphibian Declines With Program In Great Smokey Mountains National Park

From high mountain peaks to lowland rivers, chances are if you flip over a rock or peek in the crevices of a damp log in the Great Smoky Mountains, you just might find a red-cheeked, pygmy, or black-belly salamander. A lucky visitor may even find the rare Junaluska salamander or hear the chorus of serenading American toads after a severe spring storm.

These are just a few of the 40 species of amphibians--that is, frogs, toads, and salamanders--that U.S. Geological Survey scientists will survey over the next 5 years in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a region that has the greatest diversity of amphibians in North America.

The USGS survey is in response to the worldwide reports of sharp declines in the numbers of amphibians; researchers believe that by monitoring the status and trends of amphibians in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park they can help predict trends in amphibian populations elsewhere around the nation.

To survey amphibians, USGS scientists will hike to remote study plots where they will eventually turn over almost every stick and stone and wade in most creeks. They will also drive park roads after severe thunderstorms looking for amphibians moving to mating ponds. Their inventory will provide information on the condition of biological resources to Department of Interior land managers and others.

"In terms of significance to amphibians, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is more important than anywhere else in North America," said Dr. Ken Dodd, a USGS zoologist at the Florida Caribbean Science Center in Gainesville, Fla., which is leading the inventory in cooperation with the National Park Service.

"By their sheer numbers in the park, amphibians are among the most important groups of animals both as prey and as predators, and are therefore an important indicator of ecological health," said Dodd. Researchers have long maintained that certain traits of amphibians--such a
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Contact: Hannah Hamilton
hannah_hamilton@usgs.gov
352-378-8181
United States Geological Survey
29-May-1998


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