“Wicked Big Puddles”  or “Coral Reefs of Northeastern Forests”


If you have spent time exploring Michigan’s forests in the spring, you may have come across small, shallow pools of water scattered throughout the landscape. These small wetlands are called vernal pools because they are typically filled with water in the spring (“vernal” means spring) but they usually dry up and “disappear” during the summer.  Vernal pools are special types of wetlands.  Because they regularly dry up and are usually isolated from other wetlands and waterbodies, vernal pools cannot support permanent fish populations.  Due to the lack of fish predators, vernal pools provide critical habitat for certain animal species that rely on these fishless habitats for their survival and/or reproduction.  These include a number of invertebrate and amphibian species, such as fairy shrimp, wood frogs, spotted salamanders, and blue-spotted salamanders.  Vernal pools also provide habitat for many other animal and plant species, including rare, threatened, and endangered species. 


Vernal pools play an important role in maintaining healthy forest ecosystems.  Because they provide habitat for diverse and unique animal species and provide other important ecological functions, some have referred to vernal pools as the “coral reefs of Northeastern forests.” However, these vernal pools are vulnerable to a number of threats and are not well-protected under current wetland laws and regulations.


Explore this website to learn more about vernal pool ecology and conservation including how you can help identify, study, and protect these fascinating and important wetlands in Michigan!


Definition of Vernal Pools

The Michigan Vernal Pools Partnership adopted a working definition of vernal pools.

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Definition of Vernal Pools Adopted by MVPP View/Download