While some of our members were running a satisfaying audit of the potential area of Wilderness at the Carpathian Biosphere reserve, they encountered two threatened species in large numbers: the Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) and the Carpathian Newt (Lissotriton montadoni).
These two species are respectively protected under the Bern convention, annex III and annex II. Unfortunately, both species are known to dramatically decrease within Europe due to constant destruction of their natural habitats.
Newts and Salamanders, as well as other amphibians, have become an excellent ecological indicator for many researchers, especially in old-growth forests. Indeed, amphibians are really important due to their genetic diversity, but also their role in their natural habitat. Besides this, salamanders and newt tend to stay in the same area, that binds them closely to the ecological processes of that place.
Why are newts and salamanders so important to old-growth forests?
Some studies in Europe and abroad have shown that newts and salamanders found in high abundance in old-growth forests indicate a healthy forest. Positive relationships were found between the number and size of salamanders, compared to the quality of the forest (tree size, ambient moisture, canopy closure and litter depth)!
Salamanders and newts need this wet and shadowy environment to survive. Their skin is so sleek that it absorbs water from many different sources. They do not like dry or sunny places too much, because water evaporates very quickly from their skin and they can die within 3 hours. Hence the fact that they need the forest litter and streams to survive. They are highly subjected to any kind of changes in their natural environment and are the first to be affected by disturbance.
Why to amphibians tend to disappear and how to avoid this issue?
Let’s start at the beginning! Most amphibians disappear because of the destruction of their natural habitats. Old-growth forests are quickly diminishing, but they provide crucial environmental service to humanity. This type of forest is a unique carbon sink, containing the most abundant land carbon stock on the planet. These old forests lower the carbon pollution and support world’s most diverse ecosystems.
To stop amphibians to dramatically decrease from year to year, we ought to rehabilitate their natural habitats, prevent logging, and water- and soil-pollution from pesticides. We should avoid to introduce new species as they are a risk for contaminating native amphibians with diseases or viruses (e.g. ranavirus, chytridiomycosis). Above all we should minimize ecological fragmentation by roads and human infrastructures nearby forests and ponds.
Thus let’s put our efforts together to protect and improve the living conditions of these species and their natural habitats. So that in the future, we’ll walk in the woods and still meet these amphibians on our way, gently crossing the path to hide themselves in a lively dead wood trunk!
Special thanks to our intern Nick Huisman and the rangers of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve for their warm welcome.