COS 13-7
Estimating salamander activity time using individual based biophysical models

Monday, August 10, 2015: 3:40 PM
336, Baltimore Convention Center
Kira D. McEntire, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Climate interacts with an organism’s physiology to influence its distribution and fitness.  For animals with well understood physiologies, this interaction allows for prediction of distribution or fitness of an organism under certain climatic conditions through biophysical models. However, these models can be limited by not including geographic variation in physiologies and differences in behavior.  Individual or Agent Based Models (IBM/ABM) combined with biophysical models allow for incorporation of geographic, individual, and behavioral differences. The high variance in elevation in Southern Appalachia has created broad moisture gradients throughout the landscape. Within these gradients exists a patchy distribution of midstory canopy plants. Midstory canopy plants are known to buffer climatic variation, however the influence of the midstory canopy has not been studied for many fauna. Salamander activity is governed by water loss and salamanders have well studied physiologies, making them ideal test subjects to study midstory canopy affects on fitness and survival along a moisture gradient.


A preliminary biophysically based IBM for Plethodon shermani suggested the presence of a midstory canopy increased salamander activity time, especially for juveniles. The buffering capacity of a midstory canopy and subsequent increase of activity time became stronger under drier conditions. This result suggests midstory canopy as well as overstory canopy should be considered when making management decisions. Future versions of this model could be specified to a multitude of species, applied to climate change scenarios, and used to inform management decisions. Using an IBM framework allows for future inclusion of behavioral, geographic, and individual variation.