Vernal pool hydrology and herpetology project

The effects of even-aged versus uneven-aged silviculture and resulting landscape quality on the hydrology and biodiversity of vernal pools.
– Dr. Marie Larocque (UQAM), Dr. Angélique Dupuch and Dr. Yann Surget Groba (UQO)

This project is one component of a larger forestry project with the goal of comparing various forestry techniques (strip cutting vs. selective cutting vs. no cutting) in terms of its impacts on increasing the overall resilience of the forest to global change.

Vernal pools consist of very rich ecosystems and are essential to the life cycle of many organisms including threatened amphibians. Despite their ecological importance, these habitats are generally not mapped and are not taken into account in management plans because of their small size and temporary state. Similarly, their hydrologic dynamics across different geomorphologic contexts are poorly documented. Forestry can seriously affect sources of water, water quality and temperature, as well as connectivity among vernal pools. Currently the effect of these changes on vernal pool hydrology and herpetofauna are unknown. The objectives include: 1) quantify the hydrological dynamics of vernal pools across different geomorphological contexts; 2) evaluate the impact of even-aged and uneven-aged silvicuture on vernal pool hydrological dynamics, herpetofauna diversity, abundance and connectivity; and 3) provide recommendations to decrease the impact of silviculture on vernal pools and their associated herpetofauna. Fifty vernal pools will be selected for this study (10 in each site): unexploited forests, young (10-15 year-old harvest) and older sites (25-30 year-old harvest) with even-aged sylviculture, as well as young and older sites with uneven-aged sylviculture. All the pools will be surveyed for their size and depth and will be visited regularly to identify their hydroperiod. At all the sites, environmental DNA will be analysed to estimate herpetofauna diversity (via a metabarcoding approach) and abundance (via quantitative PCR). Functional connectivity among the vernal pools will be estimated using a landscape genetic approach (to estimate gene-flow among sites) and a capture-mark-recapture study of the most common species. Among the 50 sites, a subset will be equipped with different sensors (water level, water temperature and water electrical conductivity, air temperature, precipitation) to assess the temporal evolution of their water budget and water quality.

Stay tuned for results