Recently, there has been growing public awareness of both the finite nature and the ecological effects of using fossil fuels to generate energy. This public awareness has created an increased interest in renewable bioenergy resources. One such source of potential energy that has received recent attention in Minnesota, and the United States as a whole, is energy derived from woody biomass. Little is known about the impacts of woody biomass harvest, which removes the woody material typically left behind in traditional silvicultural harvest, on deadwood dependent organisms such as amphibians. This study aims to provide some of the first information on how the harvesting of residues (i.e. woody biomass) left over from typical silvicultural practices will affect amphibian species abundance and diversity.
Amphibians are an important source of energy flow in many ecosystems, due in part to their ability to efficiently convert ingested energy into biomass. In temperate regions around the world amphibians can comprise a large proportion of vertebrate biomass in wetland and forest systems, making them an ecologically significant taxon. Yet, amphibian species are declining at an alarming rate, and some researchers are referring to the decline as the “global amphibian crisis”.The information gathered from this study in Minnesota can be used to better inform conservation decisions as the global demand for energy continues to rise.
Research was conducted in 2 40-hectare hardwood forests owned by St. Louis County, Minnesota, to better understand the impacts of harvesting woody biomass on amphibian populations. Funding from the Ulysses S. Seal Conservation Grant program has helped cover the cost for travel, lodging, and field equipment needed for the research. This project was championed by Karla Anderson, Tropics Zookeeper at the Minnesota Zoo.