Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus)

I have a long-term interest in salamanders, dating to my childhood on a small farm in the midwestern US. In the early 1970s one of my graduate students, Thomas M. Burton, did a seminal study on the ecology of the abundant terrestrial salamander, Plethodon cinereus, in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest (HBEF) in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Using the same techniques as Burton did, I (with the assistance of Phyllis Likens) have been censusing these salamanders in the same locations of the HBEF on rainy nights. The main objective is to determine if the population of P. cinereus has changed since the early 1970s.

This interest has grown into a major research program with Postdoctoral Associates and Research Education for Undergraduate (REU) students at the HBEF.

Stream and terrestrial salamanders are important components of headwater riparian and forest ecosystems in New Hampshire. Two REU students (Neith Little and Sylvia Powell) recently completed an exploratory study of salamander distributions around a headwater stream in the HBEF. They encountered two salamander species in their transects, which extended 50 m away from the stream: Eurycea bislineata, which were encountered mostly within 20 m of the stream, and Plethodon cinereus, the terrestrial species, which showed no significant distribution pattern.

Major salamander research areas include:

  • Salamander dispersal and dynamics of Gyrinophilus porphyriticus.
  • Demography and movement of the northern spring salamander, Gyrinophilus porphyriticus have been investigated in fishless, undisturbed headwater streams and along gradients of streamwater acidity.
  • Self-organization in streams: The relationship between movement behavior and body condition in a headwater salamander, Gyrinophilus porphyriticus.

Pertinent References:

Lowe, W. H., G. E. Likens and B. J. Cosentino. 2006. Self-organisation in streams: the relationship between movement behaviour and body condition in a headwater salamander. Freshwater Biology 51(11):2052-2062.

Lowe, W. H., G. E. Likens and M. E. Power. 2006. Linking scales in stream ecology. BioScience 56(7):591-597.

Lowe, W. H., G. E. Likens, M. A. McPeek and D. C. Buso. 2006. Linking direct and indirect data on dispersal: Isolation by slope in a headwater stream salamander. Ecology 87(2):334-339.

Cosentino, B. J., W. H. Lowe and G. E. Likens. 2008. Demography and movement of the Northern spring salamander in four New Hampshire headwater streams. Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol. 30 (In Press)

Greene, B. T., W. H. Lowe and G. E. Likens. 2008. Out to dinner: prey availability and terrestrial habitat use by a headwater stream salamander. Freshwater Biology (In Press)

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