The Effects of Urban Development on Stream Salamander Populations: A Landscape-scale Experiment

Steven J. Price, Michael E. Dorcas, Kristen Cecala et al.

Funded by: Davidson College Department of Biology, NSF Grant #'s DBI-0139153 and DEB-0347326 to M.E.D., and Duke Power


The Charlotte Metropolitan area contains one of the fastest growing human populations in the U.S.

Salamanders are particulary vulnerable to landscape-scale disturbances associated with urbanization

Previous research showed that salamander abundance was negatively correlated with the percentage of disturbed habitat within catchements (watersheds) of first-order streams

Objectives: 1) conduct landscape-scale experiment to explore the effects of urbanization by monitoring salamander abundance before, during and after development in both control and experimental (undergoing urban development) streams and 2) examine sub-lethal stressors that may impact salamanders in urbanized catchments


Hypothesized response of salamanders to urban development



We are sampling salamanders in 15 control and 16 experimental streams in the Charlotte Metro Area. We are using dipnetting, bank searching, and funnel trapping to estimate abundance of larva and adults. Sampling began in spring 2005 and will continue until spring 2008

We are recording pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature conductivity and other biological and physical attributes of each stream

We use ArcGIS (V 8.3; ESRI; Redlands CA) to determine amount of urban/disturbed land in each stream catchment and will track the changes to each catchment using GIS and ground-truthing methods

We measure all salamanders caught; All adults and some larval salamanders (i.e., Gyrinophilus porphyriticus, Pseudotriton ruber, P. montanus) are being marked with Visible Implant Elastomers (VIE) to track long-term persistence in streams


Location of Study Sites



Contact Steve Price at for additional information

Photo credits: Pierson Hill