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.
– Prof. Marie Larocque and student Marjolaine Roux (UQAM) (sub-project 1), Dr. Philippe Nolet and Yann Surget Groba (UQO) (sub-project 2)

Vernal pools are geographically and hydrologically isolated wetlands commonly found in temperate forests of northeastern North America. They fill at their maximum in the spring following snowmelt and become completely dry during the summer; this hydroperiod affects faunal composition and reproduction. Vernal pools consist of very rich ecosystems and are essential to the life cycle of many organisms. Despite their ecological importance, there is still very little known about these habitats. In order to accomplish this project, it has been divided into multiple sub-projects: 1) gain a better understanding of the water budget of forest vernal pools, as well as the links between their hydroperiod and pool morphology, in order to identify the hydrological processes that regulate them; 2) evaluate the impact of even-aged and uneven-aged silvicuture on vernal pool herpetofauna diversity, abundance and connectivity; and 3) provide recommendations to decrease the impact of silviculture on vernal pools and their associated herpetofauna. For sub-project 1, 41 vernal pools (16 in 2016, 14 in 2018, and 11 in 2019) were identified, characterized, and have been monitored for water levels. For sub-project 2 environmental DNA is being used to estimate herpetofauna diversity.

Results Summary (sub-project 1):
– Hydroperiods are highly variable depending on meteorological conditions in late winter, spring and early summer. There is groundwater input in the spring and autumn. In the summer, pool water infiltrates the water table.
– The water budget varies seasonally but is mainly influenced by precipitation, evapotranspiration, and infiltration.
– Because vernal pools are not hydrologically isolated from the local water network, conservation of the ecosystem within the immediate watershed of vernal pools is essential to preserve their integrity.

Stay tuned for results