Youth volunteer with salamander plots in stream restoration area

Salamander Plots at the SAHC Community Farm

Child is crouched down, placing a label on a cross section slice of a small tree. There is a hammer to the right of the slice. The child is wearing a black raincoat and grey and orange sweatpants.

Student of French Broad River Academy installing salamander plots, courtesy of Tamarya Sims

There has been lots of buzz on the SAHC Community Farm about our new salamander plot program. This program was piloted by Tamarya Sims, our Community Farm Associate. Western North Carolina is often considered the salamander capital of the world. Despite this, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find salamanders in the region due to declining populations across all amphibian species. This is why Tamarya felt that the moist areas near the creek on SAHC’s Community farm would be perfect for salamander plots.

Salamander in viewing containerSalamander plots (or cover boards) are flat pieces of wood placed directly onto the moist forest floor. The wood helps create a safe, natural habitat that salamanders can live in. The wood keeps the area underneath dark and damp, which are the ideal conditions for salamanders to live in. In late March, a group of students from the French Broad River Academy came out to help install the plots and we found our first salamanders in early May.

Tamarya hopes to use this project as an educational experience for the community as well as a conservation effort. She sees the salamander plots as a great way to teach about both salamanders and environmental health. This is because salamanders can be great bioindicators. Tamarya plans to use her observations on the salamanders to look at things such as water quality and soil health. She is also interested in noting the differences between salamanders in heavily trafficked parts of the stream versus more untouched areas. 

Close up of light orange salamander with dark brown spots. The salamander has two cirri extending from its mouth.

Blue Ridge Two-Lined Salamander (Eurycea Wilderae), courtesy of Tom Ward

Another hope for the salamander plots is the opportunity for citizen science. Citizen science is a form of data collection that utilizes the general public to get a larger range of observations. Tamarya hopes to host events in which members of the community come out and collect data on the salamanders and their habitat to aid in research on the effects of climate change in our region and how it impacts our salamanders. 

You can learn more about salamanders and safely exploring their world from this recent post about them!

Or, find out more here about local salamander species from conservationist Tom Ward, and get a glimpse of more spectacular salamander photography.