Vermont Vernal Pool Mapping Project: Results from the First Four Years

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Vernal Pools, such as this one in Perkinsville, VT, are keystone ecosystems that support a rich diversity of invertebrates and breeding amphibians.                             Photo by Steven D. Faccio

The Vermont Vernal Pool Mapping Project (VPMP) is an ongoing effort to map the location and distribution of vernal pools in Vermont.  These small, ephemeral wetlands support a rich assemblage of invertebrates and breeding amphibians, many of which are considered Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in the Vermont Wildlife Action Plan. However, most vernal pools do not appear on National Wetland Inventory maps, and until now, their location and distribution across Vermont was largely unknown. VPMP, which was largely funded through the State Wildlife Grants Program of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department (VFWD), first mapped the location of nearly 5,000 “potential” vernal pools statewide using existing aerial photographs.  Then, with the help of over 100 trained volunteers, 636 of those potential pools were field-visited; 344 of which were confirmed to be vernal pools. In addition, 221 unmapped pools were also confirmed during fieldwork.

Distribution of 344 field-verified "confirmed" vernal pools, 221 unmapped ("new") vernal pools, and all other potential pools that were not field-visited.

Distribution of 344 field-verified “confirmed” vernal pools, 221 unmapped (“new”) vernal pools, and all other potential pools that were not field-visited.   Click to enlarge.

 Although field-verification of “potential” pools will continue over the next few years, results from the project’s first four years were recently compiled in a final report to the VFWD.  Among other things the report revealed that the distribution of potential pools by biophysical region showed a distinct pattern, with the majority of pools (55%) occurring in just three regions; the Northern Vermont Piedmont, Southern Vermont Piedmont, and Southern Green Mountains (see map). Not surprisingly, just 5% of mapped potential pools were located in the Northeast Highlands, underscoring the limitations of aerial photo mapping in landscapes dominated by conifer cover.

 Among field-verified pools, the most commonly detected species were Wood Frog and Spotted Salamander, which were found breeding in 78% and 73% of confirmed pools, respectively. Jefferson Salamander was found in 10% of confirmed pools, Blue-spotted Salamander in 3% of pools, and Fairy Shrimp in 5% of pools.

For more information about VPMP or to download the final report, visit www.vtecostudies.org/VPMP.

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Spotted Salamanders were found breeding in 73% of field-verified vernal pools.                                                                                                                      Photo by Steven D. Faccio

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