By John Brazner
Wetland Program Coordinator
Nova Scotia Environment
Are you aware of any shallow, wetland pools on the woodlots near your home or near places you vacation, hike, hunt or walk the dog? If so, we'd love to hear from you!
Nova Scotia Environment launched a Vernal Pool Mapping and Monitoring Project this past spring. Our goal is to develop an inventory of vernal pools (commonly called "frog ponds") around the province to improve the conservation and understanding of these fragile and important habitats.
Vernal pools are small (usually less than half an acre), shallow wetlands (often knee deep or less) that lack permanent inlet or outlet streams and often dry out in the summer. They are usually located in or adjacent to wooded areas and provide critical breeding habitat for frogs, salamanders, insects and fairy shrimp that are adapted to seasonal drying. They also provide feeding and drinking sites for birds, mammals, turtles and other wildlife. If you've got a shallow pool on your property that is loud with peepers or wood frogs in the spring, you almost certainly have a vernal pool.
Dr. Ron Russell and several of his students from Saint Mary's University have surveyed hundreds of vernal pools around the province for amphibian presence to determine what it is that limits the distribution and abundance of these sensitive animals - things like chloride contamination and proximity to roads. However, we know very little about the overall distribution of vernal pools, the range of types present here, how many are being lost to development or what biological communities, habitat conditions or water cycles are typical.
So, there is much to be learned and we need your help!
To get this project started we are looking for volunteers to provide three kinds of basic information that will help us to begin characterizing distribution of types of vernal pools in Nova Scotia:
1) The geographic location (latitude and longitude) of any vernal pools you are aware of;
2) Some basic information on pool size, depth and period of flooding; and
3) A digital photo of your pool(s).
Details about collecting and submitting this information can be found on our website (http://www.gov.ns.ca/nse/wetland/vernal.pool.mapping.project.asp).
We will be asking for your help with more comprehensive monitoring of the biology of your vernal pools in the near future, but to get things rolling for those of you who are especially interested, we would appreciate it if you could report the presence of the key species that typify vernal pools in the spring. These are wood frogs, blue spotted salamanders, yellow spotted salamanders and fairy shrimp. Pictures of adults of each species are included on our data sheet (http://www.gov.ns.ca/nse/wetland/docs/Vernal.Pool.Data.Sheet.pdf) to help with their identification.
Citizen scientists are providing invaluable information about the state of the environment all over Canada. Our Vernal Pool Project is no exception. We can't do this without you and really appreciate any help you can muster!
For more information please see our website (http://www.gov.ns.ca/nse/wetland/vernal.pool.mapping.project.asp) or contact John Brazner (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Krista Hilchey (email@example.com).