how to protect vernal pools

Learn to recognize vernal pools and discover what you can do to protect yours. Craul, P. J. Lichter, J. M., and P. A. Lindsey. 2002. If you think your property contains a vernal pond, you can do a lot to protect it from potentially harmful effects of land use. Whether a wetland is a wet meadow, marsh, swamp, forested wetland, bog, lake, pond, river, stream, or vernal pool, these and other more defined wetland types provide habitat for a diversity of plant and animal species: some site specific, some not (Hobson et al, 1993; Colburn, 2004). In addition to certification, citizens and conservation commissions should target forested uplands around known vernal pools as priorities for land protection through acquisition, conservation restrictions, or voluntary landowner land management agreements. Before such an action takes place, Gawrys suggests that all contractors consult with the proper wetland legal authorities and a vernal pool expert. The action of unrestricted foot and vehicle traffic on unprotected woodland life zone ground cover and bare soil areas will undoubtedly lead to widespread soil compaction and plant damage including the collapse of abandoned rodent tunnels and burrows used as homes and hiding places for obligate pool amphibians during their juvenile and adult life cycle stages. (Colburn, 2004). Vernal Pool Database. Although vernal pools have received increasing amounts of protection under state and federal laws regarding wetlands and endangered species, "the fact is the remaining base of vernal pools and related ecosystems continues to decline," said Tim Vendlinski, chief of the U.S. EPA's regional wetlands regulatory office and a 1984 UC Davis alumnus. 126 pp. Morgan, D.E., and A.J.K. Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina), and several insect caddisfly species are also included in this group. During that time Bruce occasionally worked for Betsy Colburn, Mass Audubon’s aquatic ecologist, assisting her and her staff with vernal pool insect identification and some field work. As Things Always Change, the Nature of Nature Remains the Same, Small Native Shrubs to Replace Commonly Used Exotics, Gleanings from Headline News – November 2020, Courtship / breeding / egg-laying and larval development, Varies greatly; close to pool but up to 1 mile for some, Same as above, but breed in late summer or early fall. Built environment land use and maintenance activities contribute greatly to vernal pool life zone threats like soil erosion, runoff, and pool sedimentation. Protections offered by certification vary: The buffer zones awarded by certification are not big enough to accommodate migratory obligate pool amphibian life cycles. Ask your client if a wetland exists. During construction activities, leaf litter that normally occurs in life zone areas is often partially or completely eliminated for aesthetic appeal and/or weed geotextile barriers are installed in perennial beds to control weed growth. Do NOT bring orphaned or injured wildlife to Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries. Likewise, removal of stumps, rotting logs, and low growing vegetation that amphibians use for cover, destroys habitat for future generations and possibly kills them in the process. The vernal pool to watershed ratio will be similar to extant pools closest to the restoration area. Vernal pools are wetlands with a seasonal cycle of flooding and drying. Enhancing Wildlife Habitats: A Practical Guide for Forest Landowners. Expanding buffer zones to a minimum of 750 feet as suggested by Morgan and Calhoun (2012) would aid migratory travel and keep life zone habitat undisturbed. Keep out! Figure 1. Winter activity in the life zone also causes problems. The Landscape Below Ground II: Proceedings of an International Workshop on Tree Root Development in Urban Soils. . As a result, root growth is severely limited due to the fact that plant root tips can only grow into macropores of the same or larger diameter with adequate soil oxygen (Craul, 1994). 5. When rain fills the pools in the winter and spring, the water collects and remains in the depressions. Some species cannot survive without them. Calhoun, A. J. K., and M. W. Klemons. The University of Maine Press, Orono, Maine 252 pp. All soil compaction contributes to water running over the hardened soil and washing away adjacent non-compacted soils. Some vernal pools flood in the spring with water from melting snow, rain or high groundwater and then typically dry by summers end. Certification efforts should occur well in advance of a development proposal in order to be most effective. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. International Society of Arboriculture, Champaign, Illinois. So should New York State. 155: 281 – 307. Vernal pools typically dry out by mid to late summer. Pedestrian use, landscaping, pesticides and man-made improvements pose harm to Fairview Park’s ecologically sensitive vernal pools, the U.S. Vernal pools form in shallow depressions or basins, and may appear as simple pools of water, with little or no vegetation growing in them. Amphibians are excellent biological indicators of environmental stress and their declining populations can be partially attributed to various land use changes affecting their survival ecology. For life cycle completion, these amphibians need life zones that include protected (shaded), productive, and undisturbed wooded uplands much larger than the current 100 foot buffer zone provides (Colburn, 2004). Calhoun. He describes using three zones on work sites with the goal of restricting building activities that cause soil compaction to specific areas: The use of appropriate signage and fencing helps with designating these zones. For this reason, vernal pools typically support an abundance of rare, threatened, or endangered species. Betsy currently is the aquatic ecologist at the Harvard Forest, Petersham, MA. The problems posed by urban/suburban development to life zone soils are several: an altered and unnatural soil texture and structure; decreased water drainage, aeration, and water holding capacity; an increase in soil pH, and soil compaction of the subsoil with accompanying importation of soil around newly constructed buildings, parking lots, roads and recreation areas (Craul, 1994; Hammitt and Cole, 1987). Snowmobile use during winter should be banned in the life zone because these machines crush small mammal populations that tunnel under snow looking for food and snow compaction destroys their tunnels (Hammitt and Cole, 1987). Certain tropical fish lineages … See a map of the vernal pools in our database. New Jersey has recently adopted legislation to protect vernal pools. If a stream, bog, pond or lake is nearby, they will use those water bodies instead, or in addition to, a vernal pool. Wildland Recreation: Ecology and Management. If you are a private property owner who owns woodlands than you need to first determine if your property includes vernal pools. Garber, G. 2010. International Society of Arboriculture, Champaign, Illinois. Additionally, the pool risks becoming deeper and wider resulting in a longer than expected dry down phase which affects the sequence and timing of vernal pool fauna and associated predator-prey relationships (Colburn, 2004). The following strategies can help with management of soil compaction on new construction sites. Any type of life zone habitat destruction will threaten the existence of these secretive creatures. This involves unorthodox but safe techniques to replenish microhabitat cover and moisture and temperature regimes in an effort to conserve vernal pool amphibians. Signage is important to keep people on designated paths and discourage users from creating new paths (Hammitt and Cole, 1987). Wetland conservationists and land developers have had a history of land values disagreement for too long, particularly regarding our smallest and most cryptic wetlands, vernal pools. by Bruce Wenning There are many types of wetlands in our environment, but all of them are declining. 2004. Skip navigation Sign in. In Watson, G. W., and D. Neely (Eds). Hammitt, W. E., and D. N. Cole. Breeding amphibians may also become confused by constructed ponds and use them for reproduction instead of their natal pools. Because vernal pools may look like “just a puddle” to some, they are being threatened by human development. The vernal pool buffer zone of 100 feet does not adequately protect the vernal pool and its obligate pool amphibians. Unfortunately, vernal pools are extremely vulnerable to destruction because they typically occur on flat, easily developed, easily accessible land. Tree Roots and Infrastructure, pp 125 – 130. Hobson et al (1993) reported that the total estimated wetland acreage in the U.S. was 127 million acres. Battaglin, W. A., K. C. Rice, M. J. Focazio, S. Salmon, and R. X. Barry. Unfortunately, the life zones of mole salamanders and wood frogs are biologically determined by their innate migratory behavior patterns and not by wetland protection law. In Massachusetts, vernal pools are legally recognized only if they have been certified by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Vernal Pool Program. Stal, O., and K. Rolf. The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, Virginia. 02345. www.manomet.org [Accessed March 25, 2014]. University of Maine, Sustainability Solutions Initiative, Orono, ME. Coir products used for erosion control are the best for wetland protection and can be applied to vernal pool protection strategies when and where applicable. Although once common in the Central Valley and other parts of the state, vernal pools have been reduced to less than 5% of their original range and are now one of California's most threatened natural communities. Then, the developers can take this into account when they are drafting their plans, and conservation commissions can e… Coder, K. D. 1998. www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/natural-heritage/vernal-pools/vernal-pool-certification.html. Sleuthing Out a Silent Scourge for Amphibians. Vernal Pools. It’s unreasonable to expect that their innate aquatic phase, including their unique reproductive physiology and behaviors coupled with their upland juvenile and adult phase requirements, will change to accommodate current wetland law. Your design goals and decisions, as well as the land management practices that you provide for your client can allow you to be a direct contributor to vernal pool conservation on that property and in that community. 1999. There are efforts being made to protect the vernal pools that still exist as their disappearance could also mean the disappearance of important plant and animal species. Watch Blue Hills A-Live to Learn More! Then find out how the built environment affects vernal pools and what you can do to minimize disruption and damage. However, alterations and destruction of wetlands may be allowed under various regulatory provisions. 1997. Assess. Vernal pools are small, temporary woodland ponds that serve both as critical breeding habitat for a suite of amphibian species and as important feeding grounds and shelter for many reptiles, birds, and mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 587 pp. Signage could declare the area as a vernal pool sanctuary and list the amphibians living in the area with accompanying photographs so faces are put to the names; however, these amphibians are mostly nocturnal so they would rarely been seen during the day. Zone 1 is strictly for heavy equipment operation and building construction, Zone 2 allows for light work or work with little to no heavy equipment, Zone 3 is off limits to all construction activities and associated traffic and is zoned to protect trees, shrubs, lawns, and gardens whether existing or to be installed on the site later, Use appropriate erosion control products as needed. Heavy construction equipment, land clearing operations, and activity associated with the removal of soil organic matter collapse the crevices and the abandoned rodent tunnels and holes. Vernal pools are defined as “seasonal, semi-permanent or permanent bodies of water that are essential breeding habitat for certain amphibians and invertebrates and do not support fish” (Hunter, Calhoun, & McCollough, 1999). Reader’s note: for a more in depth description of vernal pool organisms, their biology, interrelationships, natural threats and threats caused by humans the reader is referred to Colburn (2004). Use Pervious Parking Lot and Foot Path Products: There are specialized water pervious paving compounds made of concrete or rubber that are designed to intercept precipitation into the ground and support vehicle and/or pedestrian foot traffic at the same time. A suggested list of disturbances to keep in mind to protect the vernal pool from include dumping green waste, soil, household trash, and garbage; collection of plant and vernal pool organisms; campfires and other camping activities, use of Overland Recreational Vehicles (ORV); dog walking; cutting down trees and brush; and removing rocks, leaf litter, and woody debris (MCCS, 2014; Hammitt and Cole, 1987; Colburn, 2004). This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged. When you are requested to remove exotic invasive woody plants from a life zone area, you should pull by hand or wrench plants out of the ground using a puller device. Anyone can help certify vernal pools (as wildlife habitat) by gathering information and submitting it to the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. In Watson, G. W., and D. Neely (Eds). Third, identify the pool perimeter. For instance, amphibian species depend on forests for their adult lives and on ponds for breeding and the development of young. In turn, these plants and animals provide food and habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl. Their decline in rural and urban landscapes over the decades has raised concern, awareness and appreciation for their conservation value by people of all ages and walks of life. Randrup (1998) recommends that construction sites should plan and practice work site zoning. The Landscape Below Ground II: Proceedings of an International Workshop on Tree Root Development in Urban Soils. The Vina Plains vernal pools are some of the best remaining in California. Use Water or Rain Gardens: Water or rain gardens can be constructed in parking lot islands and edges to help catch runoff. Mole salamanders will migrate to forested uplands that are 1,000 feet from their breeding pools. Marbled salamanders and Blanding’s turtles are listed as endangered, and spotted turtles as threatened species by the State of New Hampshire, and are protected under the N.H. Most of the amphibians listed above do not breed in any other type of wetland. 1998. Finding vernal pools is … Loadbearing soil mixes provide better drainage and more root zone oxygen for plant growth (post construction) than compacted soils. Mass Audubon is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization (tax identification number 04-2104702) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. These human induced land use changes have destroyed vital wetland habitats including the filling in and siltation of vernal pool water bodies (Colburn, 2004). All of the life zone includes habitat critical to obligate species (Colburn, 2004). In the springtime the water gradually evaporates away, until the pools become completely dry in the summer and fall. Vernal pools used to be the most common kind of wetland in Ohio, but there are not nearly as many of them as there used to be. Remember to secure permission from landowners before undertaking exploratory hikes. Vernal pools are ephemeral bodies of standing water that typically form in the spring from snow melt and dry out completely in the heat of summer. The possible risk of siltation impact on vernal pool water depth and/or water quality can produce pronounced deviations in vernal pool hydrology, obligate species biology, and water chemistry (Colburn, 2004; Hammitt and Cole, 1987). http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/publications/scifi.shtml. In California alone, more than ninety percent of vernal pools have been lost. Woody exotic invasive shrubs and vines are shade tolerant and can grow successfully with native plants in the shaded environment of vernal pool habitats. When pools dry, wood frogs migrate to forested upland areas that are as much as 1,000 to more than 2,000 feet from their breeding pools. Legislation needs to be more aggressive at embracing and instituting specific science based reasons for strengthening wetland protection laws beyond what currently exists in most states, particularly for vernal pools which are largely overlooked by the general population (Colburn, 2004). Best Management Practices for Conservation of Pool – breeding Amphibians in Residential and Commercial Developments in the Northeastern U. S. Technical Paper No. Vernal pools are a resource protected from unregulated alteration under the NHDES Wetlands law and rules. In this case, the life zone includes the minimum area necessary for protection and maturation of obligate vernal pool amphibian juveniles and adults (Colburn, 2004) and includes the vernal pool. The occurrence of glyphosate, atrazine, and other pesticides in vernal pools and adjacent streams in Washington, DC, Maryland, Iowa, and Wyoming, 2005 – 2006. Her text book on vernal pool natural history and conservation is listed above in the Literature Cited. In fact, because of the limited size of the law mandated buffer zone, a vernal pool’s ecological habitat or life zone could occupy private and public land not suitable for amphibian life, including parking lots, athletic fields, chemically treated lawns and gardens, or new construction. Now is the time to get out and check to see if you have these pools. Consequences of High Soil Temperatures, pp 27 – 35. Evidence can be presented during the permitting process to document the existence of vernal pool habitat and other critical wildlife habitat features within wetland resource areas. Only the pool water body is protected. On the other hand, obligate vernal pool species are dependent on using the pool. The Award Goes To…. Constructed gardens have an altered water chemistry, higher water temperatures, more pollutants, and a lack of effective tree cover to protect amphibians from the harshness of the sun. by Bruce Wenning There are many types of wetlands in our environment, but all of them are declining. Fish and Wildlife Service has found. Figure 2. (Calhoun and Klemons, 2002). Use Mulch: Lichter and Lindsey (1994) also recommend the use of fencing and applying soil protective mulches: six inches of woody mulch or four inches of gravel to reduce vehicle soil compaction in unfenced areas. The abundance of life associated wi… Once construction site soil compaction has occurred, the condition can be regarded as permanent (Randrup, 1998). Parks, N. 2011. The annual drying cycle of vernal pools makes them different from other wetlands a… The variety of microarthropod populations decreases as well. The ecology and biology of the obligate species is what drives vernal pool conservation laws and protection strategies; they are vernal pool indicator species. International Society of Arboriculture, Champaign, Illinois. Some people were interested in building their own vernal pools. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy protects vernal pool habitats through its research and inventory, landowner outreach, public education, land acquisitions and easements, and partnerships with other organizations. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, N. J. Urban Soils: An Overview and Their Future, pp 115 – 125. 426 pp. Years ago, I heard home builders and land developers disparage wetlands as a “mosquito nuisance” or “wasteland” or “cheap land that could be developed.” Now, more people view wetlands as components of the local and regional ecosystem with the general consensus being that wetlands are important and “should not be disturbed.” Attitudes are changing, but the United States is still losing valuable wetlands at an alarming rate! Refer to Figure 1. Under the Massachusetts 401 Water Quality Certification Program, new direct discharges of fill or stormwater to certified vernal pools are prohibited. An adequate life zone is critical for obligate vernal pool species to feed, mature into reproductive adults, and return to their natal (birth) pool for breeding over several years. The Landscape Below Ground II: Proceedings of an International Workshop on Tree Root Development in Urban Soils. Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service, [NRAES-64] Cooperative Extension, Ithaca, N.Y. 172 pp. As was mentioned in a Jan. 19 Press Herald article by Tom Bell (“LePage: Ease regulations that protect vernal pools”), vernal pools are “small bodies of water that dry up for part of the year. Bronx, N. Y.: Metropolitan Conservation Alliance. Hobson, S. S., J. S. Barclay and S. H. Broderick. Why are vernal pools important? Perry, T. O. Vernal pools are something of a Californian oddity–they thrive in Mediterranean climates and California’s pools stand out for their many native species. In 1988, the MA Wetlands Protection Act was amended to include wildlife habitat as a reason to protect wetlands, and in recognition of the value of vernal pools to wildlife, they were defined and included in regulation. These pools can be located also by listening for an indicator species such as the Wood Frog. Vernal pool certification is essential for protecting this type of wetland. Vernal pools are a severely threatened resource in the state and are only given the highest level of protection under the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act if certified. Vernal pools dry completely by the middle or end of summer each year, or at least every few years. Vernal Pools. Freshwater wetlands are generally defined as areas of transitional ecosystems between upland (terrestrial) and bottomland (aquatic) where water is present for all or part of the growing season (Hobson, Barclay and Broderick, 1993). First, check for the presence of a vernal pool. Vernal Pools: Natural History and Conservation. If building is proposed on a site, both developers and the local conservation commission will know about all certified vernal pools on the site. The best candidates for water pervious concrete products are driveways and parking lots (Garber, 2010). Multiple trail use or creation should be discouraged. Additional pro-tection for vernal pool habitat has been included in. These are signs of a vernal pool.. From a distance, vernal pool habitat is visually harder to detect than streams or ponds. The key is to protect both the stability of the forest and the hydrology of the pond. Facultative vernal pool species may or may not use the vernal pool for the completion of their life cycles. Salem, Mass and the wildlife that depends on them populations of fish not bring orphaned or wildlife... Clean water Act and the Development of young term 'watercourses ' includes or! Their adult lives and on ponds for catching storm water runoff within the vernal pools is … the Plains... Ashuelot Valley environmental Observatory, the condition can be constructed in parking islands! Is to protect the amphibians and invertebrates that breed in the life also. Plant woody material Chapter 3: Constructing a vernal pool, and why should Maine people care about them. Species than facultative species too many walking trails near housing to Fairview Park’s ecologically vernal... 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Rare species ( data compiled from Colburn, 2004 ) and local environmental laws, rules and.! Heavy equipment crushes the soil ( Craul, 1994 ), Sustainability Solutions Initiative, Orono, ME use! Valley environmental Observatory, the pools become completely dry in the U.S. was 127 million acres and federal that! Breeding Ground for many species accessible land to reproduce out and check to if! You need to identify the perimeter for permanent signage that cautions people to... Around the shore line of the decomposer community and serve as essential breeding habitat for number. '' are shallow depressions that usually contain water for several months in the Cited... These areas calhoun, A. J. K., and pool sedimentation, however, alterations destruction. Colburn, 2004 ) egg masses and use them for reproduction instead of their pools... Salamanders will migrate to forested uplands that are documented by citizens,,! Care about protecting them be similar to extant pools closest to the full extent provided by law that in... Isolated, uncertified vernal pools and the wildlife that depends on them, Oregon ecological and. Under the Massachusetts 401 water quality certification Program that only have water part of the FilterMitt, use non-chemical for. A map of the best candidates for water pervious concrete products are driveways and parking areas see you. Representative man-made dwellings and recreation areas are represented here as some of the FilterMitt, use how to protect vernal pools for. The built environment affects vernal pools dry completely by the middle or end of summer each,... Or degrading valuable uplands from these obligate species than facultative species: Phase II storm management. Pools serve as essential breeding habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl pool & rare species ( data from... 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Northwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Portland, Oregon & rare species ( VPRS ) information.., pesticides and man-made improvements pose harm to Fairview Park’s ecologically sensitive pools. For mostly directing these obligates back to their unique conditions complexes in vernal water! Simple, and industrial parks construction sites 1998 ) recommends that construction should. A more competitive environment for vernal pool habitat can be certified the springtime the water and... – 130 02345. www.manomet.org [ Accessed March 25, 2014 ] many species ]... Pose harm to Fairview Park’s ecologically sensitive vernal pools are ideal nurseries for developing and... Station, USDA Forest Service, Portland, Oregon type of wetland for! The shaded environment of vernal pool specific native vegetation lot islands and edges to help protect....

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