Press Release: Endangered Salamander Breeds in Elkhorn Slough

In Press, Santa Cruz long-toed salamander by Administrator

For immediate release
PRESS RELEASE: Endangered Salamander Breeds in Elkhorn Slough

July 19, 2011

For the second year in a row the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine research Reserve (ESNERR)’s Freshwater Ecologist Nina D’Amore, PhD, has found evidence of the federally endangered Santa Cruz long-­‐toed salamanders breeding in the Elkhorn Slough watershed.

Amphibians like the Santa Cruz long-­‐toed salamander are sensitive to water quality impairment and disturbances, making them sentinels of environmental and ecosystem health. When researchers noticed that this rare species was no longer breeding, they knew steps needed to be taken to improve habitat.

“This is an exciting find, and an indication that the restoration actions undertaken have made a real difference for this endangered species,” says Dr. D’Amore.

In 2007 the Elkhorn Slough Foundation (ESF) purchased a 24-­‐acre property near the Elkhorn Slough Reserve. ESF fallowed the steep, eroding land and began transitioning it to its historic state as an oak forest. This restoration has helped protect the soil, reduced erosion, and improved water quality downstream at one of only 22 known Santa Cruz long-­‐toed salamander breeding ponds—Cattail Swale.

The following year ESNERR undertook a major restoration effort to improve the habitat at Lower Cattail Swale, which can be seen from the South Marsh Loop on the Elkhorn Slough Reserve where it is studied and stewarded. The pond was made deeper, which increased the area’s water retention and gave freshwater species a longer window of time in which to breed.

The work done by ESF and ESNERR has improved increased runoff filtration and extended wet seasons. And after a five year hiatus, endangered salamanders are breeding in Elkhorn Slough.

The Elkhorn Slough and its surrounding hills and valleys is an incredibly diverse ecosystem featuring the expansive tracts of saltwater marshes, oak woodlands, working farms, and the plant and wildlife that inhabit these regions. The slough has been the focal point for innovative and cutting-­‐edge research, conservation and education programs.

ESNERR is one of 27 National Estuarine Research Reserves established nationwide as field laboratories for scientific research and estuarine education. The Reserve is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and managed by the California Department of Fish and Game. ESF, the nonprofit partner to the Reserve, established in 1982, is the only community-­‐supported organization wholly dedicated to conserving and restoring Elkhorn Slough and its watershed. ESF owns or manages nearly 4,000 acres, or nearly nine percent of the watershed. For more information, visit www.elkhornslough.org

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