Georgia’s rarest amphibian, the frosted flatwoods salamander, is facing imminent extinction in the wild because its natural habitat in South Georgia’s piney woods is nearly gone.
Now, its survival may hinge on the Atlanta-based Amphibian Foundation, housed at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve in Buckhead. The nonprofit foundation, which works closely with other wildlife groups and agencies, is dedicated to amphibian (frogs and salamanders) conservation and research and educating the public about the importance of amphibians in nature.
When I visited last week, director Mark Mandica and wife Crystal were tending a variety of rare and endangered amphibians from around the world — all kept in home-size aquariums that line the walls of the foundation’s several rooms.
A major focus of the foundation’s current efforts, though, is saving two of Georgia’s rarest amphibians: the frosted flatwoods salamander and the Carolina gopher frog, both native to the longleaf pine flatwoods of Georgia‘s coastal plain. Both species are also highly dependent on “ephemeral pools,” small ponds that are wet for only part of the year, for breeding and rearing young.
Climate change, however, has disrupted the wet-dry cycles of the pools. Also, fire suppression, development and conversion to tree plantations have severely degraded their pine woods habitat.
For the flatwoods salamander, the situation is critical. The moderately sized salamander — black to chocolate-black with lines and specks on its back — has all but disappeared from Georgia, a 90 percent decline since 2000. Only a few small populations remain in North Florida.
The Amphibian Foundation, Mandica noted, holds the world’s only captive population of the salamander and is striving to produce offspring in captivity that will be released back into the wild in restored and protected habitat.
IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: Spring officially arrives at 6:29 a.m. Monday. The moon will be last quarter on Monday. Mercury and Venus are very low in the west around dusk. Mars is in the west at dusk and sets about three hours later. Jupiter rises out of the east before midnight. Saturn rises out of the east about three hours before sunrise.