Date of Award

12-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Forestry and Natural Resources

Advisor

Barrett, Kyle

Committee Member

Hagan, Don

Committee Member

Haas, Carola

Abstract

The southern Appalachian Mountains have experienced large population growth and a change in land use in the past 30 years. The majority of development has been low density, suburban land, known as exurban development. Lotic Systems and riparian areas are severely degraded by conversion from urban to rural land uses. The long-term effects of exurbanization on riparian vegetative communities and stream salamanders in the southern Appalachian Mountains are not well known. We sought to determine if vegetative community composition and structure change with time since neighborhood development or with the amount of impervious surface within the watershed. In order to determine the temporal influence of exurban housing on salamanders and riparian vegetation we sampled 27 streams and riparian areas in watersheds containing exurban neighborhoods ranging in age from four to forty-four years, along with eight forested streams, over the course of two field seasons. Watershed scale variables such as neighborhood age and impervious surface cover did not influence the aspects of riparian vegetation community we measured, and usually did not influence salamanders. Local habitat variables offered better predictions of vegetation community metrics as well as salamander occupancy and abundance. Exurban neighborhoods and their landowners may have the potential to manage for riparian vegetation and salamanders through the use of maintained stream buffer zones along the entire length of the stream and reduction in road salts and impervious surfaces.

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