Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): M. L. Best; H. H. Welsh
    Date: 2014
    Source: Ecosphere 5(2): article 16
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (10.0 MB)


    Woodland (Plethodontid) salamanders are the most abundant vertebrates in North American forests, functioning as predators on invertebrates and prey for higher trophic levels. We investigated the role of Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii) in regulating invertebrate numbers and leaf litter retention in a northern California forest. Our objective was to examine how salamander predation on invertebrates affects leaf litter retention and the amount available for soil-building and carbon capture at the litter-soil interface. We used field enclosures to quantify the effects of Ensatina on invertebrates and litter retention over two wet seasons, using moisture as a covariate. In the first year Ensatina reduced Coleoptera (beetles) and Diptera (flies) larvae >2 mm, adult Coleoptera, Collembola (springtails), and Formicidae (ants), and increased Oribatid mites, larvae 2 enclosure increased litter retention by 13.3% ± 3.6% (mean ± SE) compared to controls, facilitating the capture of 200 kg/ha of carbon. At a similar density range-wide this would equate to 72.3 metric tons/yr of carbon in one season potentially sequestered in forest soil rather than entering the atmosphere. In the second year invertebrate densities doubled in response to early rains such that while salamanders reduced the numbers of the same taxa, effect sizes were lower compared to year one, producing biological effects that failed to achieve statistical significance. However, three taxa did significantly increase in year two (Annelida [worms], Psocoptera [barklice], and Chelonethida [pseudoscorpions]). Litter retention in year two was greater on treatment plots by 5.6% ± 4.6%; however, high variability across plots precluded statistical significance. Ensatina suppressed some invertebrate taxa, released others, increased leaf litter retention, and facilitated greater carbon capture in both years; however, the strength of the effects were modulated by the bottom-up effects of the timing and amount of precipitation in year two.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Best, M. L.; Welsh, H. H., Jr. 2014. The trophic role of a forest salamander: impacts on invertebrates, leaf litter retention, and the humification process. Ecosphere 5(2): article 16.


    Google Scholar


    ecological service, Ensatina eschscholtzii, humification, invertebrate predation, leaf litter retention, northern California, Plethodontidae, trophic relationships, woodland salamander

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page