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Siskiyou Mountain Range

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The Black Salamander — Aneides flavipunctatus

Photo by Luke Ruediger

The Black Salamander is relatively rare in the Siskiyou Mountains. Unlike the restrictive range of the Siskiyou Mountains Salamander (Plethodon stormi), which is centered mainly around the mountains of the Applegate Valley, the Black Salamander (Aneides flavipuntatus) has a range that extends from Sonoma County, CA in the south, up to Jackson and Josephine Counties, OR at the northern end of its range. There is also a disjunct subspecies (Aneides flavipunctatus niger) in the Santa Cruz area. Experts are currently debating a further separation of the species into four subspecies, with the northwest lineage—including the Siskiyou Mountain population—given its own subspecies. Currently there are only 17 documented sites in Oregon, 14 of which are found on federal lands, including the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and the Medford District BLM. 93% (or 13) of the known sites are found within the Applegate River watershed.

The Black Salamander occupies low-elevation, mixed conifer forests, woodlands, grasslands, meadows, and forested riparian sites. The species seems most abundant in mature or old-growth forests; although, especially in interior locations, the species is often associated with intermittent streams, springs, or seeps. The Black Salamander often lives in mossy talus habitat beneath a forest canopy. This is especially important because, like our endemic Siskiyou Mountains Salamander, the Black Salamander is lungless and breaths through its skin, making it very susceptible to changes in micro-climate and canopy conditions.

Threats to the Black Salamander in Oregon appear to be mostly associated with timber harvest due to changes in micro-climate, ground disturbance, and canopy cover. To the south, the species appears to be impacted by habitat conversion from grassland, woodland, mixed hardwood, and mixed conifer forests to vineyards or other forms of agriculture. Other impacts include habitat fragmentation, rock quarry development, climate change, uncharacteristic fire, and exposure to chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and fire retardants.

Although relatively little know and little understood, the Black Salamander, at the northern edge of its range in the Siskiyou Mountains, is an important portion of the region’s biodiversity. The Siskiyou Mountains represent a unique habitat for salamander species, where species often reach either the northern or southern extension of their range. The diversity of habitats and the distinctive blending of habitats allow for many species of both plants and animals to exist within the Siskiyou Mountains at the margin of their range. For millennia the Siskiyou Mountains have been a climate refuge; with the instability of future climatic conditions these mountains may once again shelter a wide variety of species. The protection of wildland habitats and the maintenance of biodiversity in the region will allow the Siskiyou Mountains to continue providing such habitat.

The photos on this post where taken in early December on my property in the Siskiyou Mountains.


Photo by Luke Ruediger
Photo by Luke Ruediger



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