Visiting a forest along one of our major rivers, such as the Connecticut River, in late spring, is like entering a special world. Big silver maples tower overhead, with arching branches and roots reaching deep underground. Cottonwoods up to five feet in diameter and vase-shaped American elms are scattered about. Scars on the upstream side of some tree trunks bear testament to the chunks of ice that crash through when the river floods every spring. Silt stains on the trunks and dead leaves, trash, and other debris caught in crotches of trees show the height of the floodwaters. Many trees cannot withstand flooding, but the species in this forest are flood-tolerant and thrive in the nutrient-rich sediments brought by floods. » Continue Reading.
Posts Tagged ‘vernal pools’
Long before antimalarial drugs, draining the swamp was a literal human life saver. Sometime after Earth Day 1970, when over 90 percent of the country’s swamps had already been drained, people began to appreciate by their very rarity what swamps looked like, what lived there and how they functioned and benefited society. By 2017, “draining the swamp” has been trivialized into a meaningless electoral slogan. The usage of this phrase infuriates me, but someone inside my head is reminding me to “get over it.”
The actual swamps in New York are highly diverse and on a landscape or local scale contribute vitally to natural infrastructure benefiting our human communities and the more than human world we should aspire to live with. » Continue Reading.
Its that time of the year when kids dart to ponds with nets in hand, searching for amphibians. Frogs, toads, newts and salamanders are among us! In early spring some species use vernal pools as breeding and incubating grounds.
A vernal pool is a temporary body of water that resembles a large puddle. There are obligate indicator (dependent) species and facultative (use only for part of the life cycle) species. The obligate indicator species are wood frogs, eastern spade-foot toads (Scaphiopus holbrooki), and the Jefferson/ blue spotted complex salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonium x laterale). The facultative species are most of the other frogs/toads, a few reptiles, as well as fingernail and amphibious clams and leeches, Isopods, caddisfly, dragonfly, dobsonfly larvae, water strider, whirligig beetle, and backswimmers, which get eaten by the adult amphibians. » Continue Reading.
I feel a connection with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, albeit indirect. He had strengths, but an environmental and land ethic, because they were not enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, seemed irrelevant to the Justice. Just before he died, he joined the majority in putting a stay on the the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean power regulation and thus called into question American climate commitments made in Paris. But my story is local, not global.
Some years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) was involved in determining whether small, one-eighth acre, biologically active wetlands near our home that dry up in the summer, known as vernal pools, were worth protecting under the federal Clean Water Act’s Section 404 program. A developer wanted to build 18 homes – outside of the Adirondack Park – abutting ours that would directly impact the red maple swamp forest in which the pools lay. » Continue Reading.
Vernal pools are small areas of wetland that form in the spring and dry up during the summer. Water collects in saucer-shaped depressions that have an impermeable layer of soil, leaves, or debris. Snowmelt and spring rains fill these puddles. Without an inlet to replenish the supply, summer’s sun and heat eventually evaporate the water, though a dense forest canopy helps delay the inevitable drying up. Some vernal pools may refill after a heavy rain, but the main characteristic is their temporary nature. » Continue Reading.
Clambakes, fried clams, clam diggers, clam shacks ― we usually associate clams with the ocean. You may have also seen freshwater clams in rivers and lakes. But did you know there are clams that live in the woods?
In our region, there are several species of fingernail clam that inhabit vernal pools, the temporary woodland pools where frogs and salamanders lay their eggs in the spring. As temperatures warm and melting snow and rain fill depressions in the forest floor, these small clams, only the size and shape of a child’s fingernail, become active. » Continue Reading.
Wander into a wood with your ears open in early spring and you are likely to quizzically turn your head to try and locate an indistinct sound, far off but not too far off, remarkable but subtle, an undertone of – castanets? That’s how we described the sound 29 years ago when as new homeowners we explored our forest and discovered the breeding quacks of the wood frog.
I learned by wandering that wood frogs bred in the hundreds, not just in that one forest pond (a vernal pool), but in several others hundreds of yards apart – but not in every pool, just in some. Twenty-nine years later, they continue to breed just in those same pools between March 15 (the earliest date I’ve recorded their sounds) and April 15 (the latest), depending on temperature. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay from Stacy McNulty Associate Director and Research Associate at SUNY ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb. Following last week’s story on the destruction of wetlands by ATVs at the 2011 SNIRT rally, the Almanack asked Stacy to provide some background on vernal pools, small intermittent wetlands that are important sources of Adirondack biodiversity.
On a proverbially dark and stormy night in mid-April I climb the hill, flashlight sweeping the ground for obstacles. The first warm, spring rain has been falling and snow piles lie here and there. Faintly I hear a quacking sound up ahead, signaling my target – but what I seek is not a duck, but a frog. Scores of wood frogs swim and call from the pool, their eyes shining in the beam of my light. » Continue Reading.
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