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Some Like It Wet

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Published on: May. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

My son really knows how to party! For his tenth birthday, for example, he asked me to take him and some of his friends for a romp through some salamander pools. I was glad to comply. Outdoor excursions are a lot more fun, and a lot less expensive, than video games, and besides, I enjoy stomping through the mud as much as he does.

It was a warm March day with a light wind. The trees were still bare. Our destination was a 20-acre field that held four ephemeral pools. Ephemeral pools are shallow, temporary bodies of water that appear in both lowland and upland areas during spring. They are shallower than ponds but bigger than puddles. The four pools in this particular field are important habitat components for seven amphibian species.

All of these species need shelter. At the first pool we turned over wooden slabs and small tree trunks that had been placed in the pool to make hiding places for salamanders. Boy, did we find a lot of them! Wading through shallow water pools and watching wildlife was a great way to spend time with my son and his friends.

These shallow pools did not exist three years before our trip. They are products of wetland habitat improvement projects on land managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Wetlands have been altered, destroyed and generally reduced all across the country. People seldom consider that shallow pools could be important wildlife habitat so they fill them with earth or dig them out deeper. Thousands of ephemeral pools, along with their benefits to plant and wildlife species, have disappeared.

A large variety of plants and animals use these pools. Salamanders, frogs, toads, wetland plants, reptiles, deer, turkey, quail and many other species, including herons and ducks, take advantage of ephemeral pools. Fortunately, for all of these species, small, shallow, ephemeral pools can be restored or created with little effort.

First a location for a pool must be identified. Topographical maps can be a big help in identifying low sites. Depressions or old stream channels noted on maps may be excellent places for pools.

Ideal locations are low spots in fields or pastures that tend to hold standing water during rains. Seeing where and how the water acts after a rain is one of the best ways to locate potential sites. The amount of water accumulating in an area and the

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