Heads up on vernal pools!

Picture of a vernal pool from Mass Audubon

As winter comes to an end, low wooded areas become flooded creating temporary isolated pools. These pools fill with melting snow, spring rain, runoff, and even rising ground water. They are called vernal pools. Many amphibians and insects, like salamanders, frogs, fairy shrimp, and ​​caddisflies breed in these vernal pools. You can find vernal pools on many AVIS reservations. Some species of amphibians live in the vernal pools all year round. This means they have to be able to withstand a variety of weather conditions, from water-filled pools to bone dry and even frozen conditions. Other species end up just breeding in these vernal pools, like the blue-spotted salamander, which is considered a threatened species in Massachusetts. Vernal pools are important breeding grounds for amphibians. Fish aren’t able to live in vernal pools since they dry up for a portion of the year. This allows the amphibians to have a safer nursery for their eggs and juvenile organisms. 

Vernal pools, and wetlands in general, are susceptible to construction and changing land around them. It can be hard to tell where exactly a vernal pool could be since they are dry throughout several months of the year. If vernal pools are disturbed, there is a possibility that the wildlife living in them can be harmed to the point of termination in that area. Therefore, it is important for these fragile habitats to be protected. This Mass Audubon article here provides a good discussion of some of the requirements to certify a wetland which will then protect it from development. Pools that are not certified as a wetland are given limited protection by the state. 

If there is a vernal pool in your area that isn’t identified as one, you could begin the process to certify it. By certifying a vernal pool you can protect the land from being harmed in any way. Certifying vernal pools relies on volunteers. You can read through this Mass.gov article about vernal pool certification here

One of our local Destination Imagination Teams, The Andover Animal Advocates Team, is advocating for the threatened blue-spotted salamanders to become the Massachusetts state amphibian. This group of Andover High School students has been lobbying for the blue-spotted salamanders to be recognized as the official state amphibian since last summer. They went to the state legislature with the idea and have been awarded this year’s Youth Environmental Service Award by the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions. Unfortunately, the blue-spotted salamander hasn’t become the official state amphibian by law, yet, but it is still very impressive knowing they were awarded the Youth Environmental Service Award. The Eagle Tribune wrote an article about the Andover Animal Advocates Team which you can read here. The Andover Animal Advocates team also has a website which you can look at here.

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