Thermal Variation in Urban Salamander Microhabitats
Faculty Mentor: Amanda Zellmer, Biology Department
Funding: Sustainability Fund Summer Fellowship
Urban habitats are rapidly growing ecosystems all around the world, leading to detrimental climate phenomena like the urban heat island (UHI) effect. However, small-scale microhabitats are known to experience unique microclimate shifts that play vital ecological roles. To investigate urban microclimates, we assessed thermal variation in the microhabitats of Batrachoseps nigriventris, a lungless terrestrial salamander in the Greater Los Angeles area. We employed iButton miniature data loggers and an infrared thermometer to collect temperature data along an urban to rural gradient ranging from an urban backyard to wilderness-adjacent natural habitat, under various urban and natural cover objects, and in microhabitats with and without salamander presence. We utilized linear mixed-effects model analyses and Levene’s tests to evaluate thermal variation in different microhabitat conditions. Our results demonstrated little evidence of the UHI effect at the micro-scale and thermal similarities between cover objects and between microhabitats with and without salamanders. These findings foster discussions of urban microrefugia from broad trends of climate change, the suitability of urban cover objects for salamander survival, and the availability of suitable urban microhabitats in the face of rapid global urbanization.
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