Project title: Identifying and protecting vernal pools in Rhode Island
Mentors: Stefan Bengston and Nancy Karraker
Abstract: Vernal pools are temporary wetlands that fill with water during the fall and spring and are usually dry by late summer. Temporary wetlands provide habitat for a number of species such as L. sylvaticus (Wood frog), A. maculatum (Spotted Salamander), A. opacum (Marbled Salamander), and Anostraca (Fairy shrimp). Because vernal pools are often small and are not always full of water, people are often unaware of what vernal pools are, their ecological importance, or that they may be in their backyard. This can result in vernal pools being filled or destroyed. Regulations in RI protect vernal pools but allow for construction up to the pool edge. This results in the destruction of upland habitat used by different species, and better management plans are needed to effectively protect these essential habitats. The objective of this study was to contribute to the RI vernal pool database by verifying potential vernal pools in the state, review neighboring states’ vernal pool protection plans and community involvement, and lastly to develop a strategy for RI vernal pool protection. When looking at neighboring states’, there was a common trend of having a buffer zone around the vernal pool. While developing a strategy for RI vernal pool protection, we came to the conclusion that a buffer zone was need and to involve the community.