The indicator species concept is appealing to land managers charged with monitoring and conserving the vast and complex biological diversity with limited available finances. We review common management indicator species (MIS) selection criteria and associated criticisms, including sensitivity to disturbance, monitoring efficacy, baseline information, and social and economic importance. Additionally, we examine current MIS for the Monongahela National Forest based on our review of selection criteria.
We used the analytical hierarchy process (AHP) to determine the best MIS for three management objectives of the 364,225-ha Monongahela National Forest: (1) maintenance of 20,250 ha of early successional habitat, (2) maintenance of >20,250 ha of >80-year-old mixed mesophytic and cove hardwood stands, and (3) maintenance of >8,100 ha of >80-year-old red spruce (Picea rubens ) stands. We used sensitivity to management actions common on the Monongahela National Forest (sensitivity), monitoring efficacy and effectiveness (monitoring), species baseline information (documentation), and social, political, and economic importance (SPE) as criteria in our AHP analysis.
The Virginia varying hare (Lepus americanus virginianus), once considered an abundant game species in the central Appalachian Mountains, is now classified as sensitive in Virginia and Maryland. Our study assessed the Virginia varying hare as a possible management indicator species representing early successional red spruce and mixed red spruce-northern hardwood forest for the Monongahela National Forest. Because repeated trapping attempts were unsuccessful and tracks were infrequently encountered, limiting the usefulness of track counts as a means of estimating Virginia varying hare abundance, we believe this species would poorly serve as a MIS for the Monongahela National Forest.
To understand long-term impacts of partial cutting practices on stream-dwelling salamanders in the central Appalachians, we examined pooled abundance of Desmognathus fuscus and D. monticola salamanders (hereafter Desmognathus) in headwater streams located within long-term silvicultural research compartments on the Fernow Experimental Forest, Tucker County, West Virginia. Our results suggest that long-term partial cutting suppresses Desmognathus abundance, possibly by increasing stream sedimentation and thereby reducing available cover for juvenile and adult salamanders. However, these practices do not appear to have threatened long-term persistence of Desmognathus in central Appalachian headwater streams.
Burgeoning energy demand in the United States has led to increased coalbed methane (CBM) exploration in the Appalachian basin. Despite increasing CBM development in the region, data about its impacts to wildlife are lacking. Our objective was to assess past and ongoing CBM development impacts on reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals in the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia. Total species richness and diversity were greater at storage than plugged gas well sites. Although CBM development adversely impacts moisture sensitive woodland salamanders, our results suggest that maintained gas well openings may benefit other herpetofauna and small mammal species that use early successional habitat within predominately forested central Appalachian landscapes.
We examined local and landscape-scale variable influence on the depth and magnitude of edge effect on woodland salamanders in mature mixed-mesophytic and northern hardwood forest adjacent to natural gas wells or abandoned well sites maintained as wildlife openings. We surveyed woodland salamander occurrence from June-August 2006 at 33 gas well sites in the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia. Our results suggest that forest habitat adjacent to maintained edges and with sufficient cover still can provide suitable habitat for woodland salamander species in central Appalachian mixed-mesophytic and northern hardwood forests. These results underscore the importance of distinguishing among different edge types as well as placing survey locations within a landscape context when investigating edge impacts on woodland salamanders. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)