What are Vernal Pools?

• A vernal pool is a form of temporary, freshwater wetland that contains water for a portion of the year and supports a fantastic array of wildlife and plants, some specially adapted for these habitats and many being rare species in Virginia. Vernal pools are often found in the floodplain of a stream, in seasonally-flooded woodlands, as sinkhole ponds, or where rainwater and snow collect in forest depressions.

• Vernal pools typically dry up in the summer time and fill up with rainwater during the fall and winter. Drying of the pool prevents fish from being predators on the pool’s amphibians and other dependent wildlife

• Vernal pool wetlands are distinguished by the presence of certain indicator species of wildlife know as “obligates.” The vernal pool obligates in Virginia are the Spotted Salamander, Marbled Salamander, Wood Frog, Jefferson Salamander, Mole Salamander, Mabee’s Salamander, Tiger Salamander, and several species of Fairy Shrimp (small, short-lived crustaceans). The breeding presence of any of these obligates can be used to verify a true vernal pool habitat.

• Virginia’s vernal pool obligates include one Endangered Species (Tiger), one Threatened Species (Mabee’s), and a number of rare, Special Concern animals (Mole salamander and Fairy Shrimp). Vernal pools also support some of the state’s rarest wetland plants.

• Vernal pools have become a rare form of wildlife habitat around the country and especially in Virginia due to their destruction (being filled in, drained, logged over, or polluted). They have often been overlooked and considered insignificant due to their small size as wetlands. Conservation efforts for these habitats are desperately needed.

 

What is being done?

• Education efforts are currently underway to raise awareness for the plight of vernal pool habitats around the state and to encourage schools, clubs and individuals to be involved.

• The Vernal Pool Society of Virginia provides a network for interested parties to help in the cause for locating (inventory), monitoring (long-term observations), and preserving these disappearing ponds. Contact the address below for more information on how your school or group can be involved with vernal pools.

• The “Schools for Pools” Program is a pilot project linking students with experts through live, talk sessions using “Compressed Video Conference” technology. This allows consultants to guide students and their teachers in projects to find and study vernal pools in their home areas. Get involved in your own area of the state. Ask your School’s technology coordinator about this exciting learning tool.

• Schools or groups with vernal pools in their communities can adopt these habitats, monitor their health, and help to conserve one of Virginia’s rare natural resources.

• Projects can involve coordinating with the Department of Transportation and local authorities to assist amphibians in crossing roads that impede their migrations to vernal pools and result in their mass deaths from encounters with cars.

• These efforts can aid state agencies (Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, Division of Natural Heritage, etc.) in identifying and documenting these rare natural resources.

 


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