Home Archived April 13, 2016
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Conclusions


      Concepts, problems, considerations, and approaches were outlined for establishing a monitoring program for the amphibians of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The monitoring approach that is selected (which species will be monitored, where they will be monitored, how many sites will be monitored, and which techniques will be used) will be determined by the funding (and personnel) available and the specific objectives of Park managers. In this regard, a three-pronged approach to amphibian monitoring within the Park is presented in figure 47. The decision path is based on minimum, medium, and maximum levels of funding, although exact amounts are deliberately not specified.

Decision Path for Monitoring Amphibians at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Figure 47. Decision path for helping design an amphibian monitoring program at Great Smoky Mountains National Park based on three levels of funding. - click to enlarge Figure 47. Decision path for helping design an amphibian monitoring program at Great Smoky Mountains National Park based on three levels of funding.

Minimum Funding

  1. In this and all tiers, Gourley Pond must be visited several times a year to monitor the effects of disease.
  2. A minimum of two to three visits per year is specified for the Park’s most critical wetlands. Three of the wetland sites (the Finley-Cane ponds, Sugarlands, the Sinks) are readily accessible by road; all of the sites in Cades Cove (Gum Swamp, Methodist Church Pond, Shields Pond, Stupkas Sinkhole Pond, Abrams Creek pools) could be visited easily in a single day. Nighttime call surveys would greatly increase the efficiency of wetland surveys in Cades Cove and elsewhere.
  3. Time-constrained techniques could be used at the terrestrial and stream sites. If five sites could be visited per day, sampling these sites would take a two or three-person crew about 3 weeks to complete the data collection. Whiteoak Sink is singled out for sampling because of the presence of the Southern Zigzag Salamander (Plethodon ventralis) and because of all the readily accessible cave openings. Litterbags set early in the year could be checked easily throughout the season and thus record species that may be not encountered during stream time constraint sampling.

Medium Funding

  1. In addition to the work considered above, the number of terrestrial and stream sampling sites could be increased.
  2. Hellbenders should be monitored annually in the Little River.

Maximum Funding

  1. In addition to the work considered above, the number of terrestrial and stream sampling sites could be increased further.
  2. Coverboards could be used to increase longterm sampling effort at selected sites; they should be checked once or twice monthly.
  3. Hellbenders should be monitored annually at all known locations in the Park.
  4. Selected caves (Gregorys, Stupkas, the two Calf caves) should be surveyed thoroughly two or three times a year; other caves should be visited, especially in Whiteoak Sink, and the openings around the entrance and twilight zones searched for salamanders and frogs.

       To increase sample size, the same terrestrial and stream sites need not be searched annually. For example, 50 terrestrial sites could be searched one year; a second 50 searched the second year; and a third 50 searched the third year, after which the cycle could be repeated. Unfortunately, however, there is a tradeoff with this approach. If a rotation is used, sample size is increased (a good thing), but the amount of time it takes to complete a cycle is greatly extended (12 years to get four samples per location). Amphibian populations may change dramatically in this amount of time, and trends could be missed or misinterpreted.

       A rotating schedule could also be used to vary survey species or areas. For example, researchers might decide to alternate Hellbender and cave surveys every other year if money became limited. Or, Hellbenders could be monitored for 2 years in Little River, and at the other locations every third year. Planning is absolutely essential, and figure 47 is meant as a guide to approaches that might be considered rather than an absolute schedule.

Summary

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U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey

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