The relationship between water chemistry and breeding success of spotted salamanders Ambystoma maculatum (Shaw) was examined in temporary woodland ponds on outer Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1985 and 1986. Most pond waters were dilute (3median coductivity = 57 umhos cm-1 (1 umhos cm-1 = 0?1 mSm-1)), acidic (median pH = 4?82), and highly colored (median = 140 Pt-Co units). Most acidity was due to abundant organic acids. Salamander survival to hatching was over 80% at 8 of 12 ponds monitored. Complete mortality, preceded by gross abnormalities, was observed only among embryos in the most acidic spawning pond (pH 4?3-4?5) in both years. Embryo transfers between ponds and laboratory studies indicated that reduced survival was due to the interaction of low pH with high tannin-lignin concentration. The use of amphibian embryonic survival to indicate acid rain effects is complicated by multiple habitat parameters and should only be attempted in conjunction with long-term population monitoring.
Additional publication details
Breeding biology of the spotted salamander Ambystoma maculatum (Shaw) in acidic temporary ponds at Cape Cod, USA