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On the ecological role of salamanders

Informally Refereed
Authors: Robert D. Davic, Hartwell H. Welsh Jr.
Year: 2004
Type: Miscellaneous Publication
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
Source: Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst., Vol. 35: 405-434


Salamanders are cryptic and, though largely unrecognized as such, extremely abundant vertebrates in a variety of primarily forest and grassland environments, where they regulate food webs and contribute to ecosystem resilience-resistance (= stability) in several ways: (a) As mid-level vertebrate predators, they provide direct and indirect biotic control of species diversity and ecosystem processes along grazer and detritus pathways; (b) via their migrations, they connect energy and matter between aquatic and terrestrial landscapes; (c) through association with underground burrow systems, they contribute to soil dynamics; and (d) they supply high-quality and slowly available stores of energy and nutrients for tertiary consumers throughout ecological succession. Salamanders also can provide an important service to humans through their use as cost-effective and readily quantifiable metrics of ecosystem health and integrity. The diverse ecological roles of salamanders in natural areas underscore the importance of their conservation.


amphibians, forested ecosystems, detritus-litter, succession, keystone species


Davic, Robert D.; Welsh Jr., Hartwell H. 2004. On the ecological role of salamanders. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst., Vol. 35: 405-434