Protecting vernal pools and being aware of how changes in the surrounding forest affect them is important in maintaining a healthy and resilient forest ecosystem. Refer to these recommendations if your goal is to manage a forest for non-game wildlife and support vernal pool biodiversity. 

For additional questions or specific assistance, please email mvpp@michigannature.org.

 

Identify Vernal Pools On Your Property

  • Confirm potential vernal pools by looking for indicator species (wood frog, blue spotted and spotted salamanders, and fairy shrimp) and drying/significant draw down in late summer/fall. Be sure to look to EGLE’s wetland regulations before making any changes to wetlands, including vernal pools. Visit www.michigan.gov/EGLE

 

Observe, Don’t Disturb

  • Avoid entering the pool (this includes pets!) unless for monitoring. If you want to explore the pool, disinfect your boots/waders with a 3% bleach solution to prevent the spread of disease between amphibian populations. View Pool Patrol Disinfection Protocol here. 

 

Keep the Vernal Pool Connected to the Surrounding Forest

  • Maintain at least 100 ft. of undisturbed forest around the vernal pool as core habitat. If your goal is to manage a forest for non-game wildlife, then increasing this forest connection to up to 600 ft. (minimum average of >50% canopy cover) helps amphibians safely move between the pool and the forest (Michigan Amphibian and Reptile Best Management Practices, 2023).
  • Roads and ruts created from heavy machinery are huge barriers for amphibians. Be conscious of these kinds of physical barriers around the vernal pool and the surrounding area.

 

Protect the Natural Hydrologic Cycle of the Pool

  • Prevent unnatural input or removal of water from the vernal pool. This can disturb the hydrology (the timing of when a pool fills & dries, water level, and duration) of the pool and may drown or dry unsuspecting creatures.
  • Changes to the tree canopy around the vernal pool basin and in the surrounding uplands affect the hydrology and temperature of the pool and the moisture of the forest floor. If possible, we suggest reducing drastic modifications to the surrounding canopy (i.e., maintaining a minimum average of >50% canopy cover).

 

Don’t remove fallen trees or leaves from the pool basin. Natural debris (i.e leaves, branches, and logs) are an important part of the vernal pool ecosystem.

  • Leaves are the base of the vernal pool food web and are an important food source to vernal pool decomposers and invertebrates.
  • Branches and debris provide habitat structure. Salamanders attach their egg masses to twigs and branches, turtles use logs to bask, and frogs and other species use woody debris as shelter/protection.

 

Check for Invasive Species

  • Remove and prevent the spread of invasive species. Invasive species can outcompete native vegetation, reduce biodiversity, and change the hydrology of the pool.
  • Avoid pesticide and herbicide use in close proximity to the vernal pool. Use hand tools to remove invasive species, if possible. Amphibians breathe through their skin and are very sensitive.

 

If you engage in tree harvesting around the vernal pool basin, follow the Michigan Soil and Water Best Management Practices.

  • Large ruts from equipment inhibit amphibian movement. Keep heavy machinery out of the vernal pool basin and the surrounding 100 ft.
  • Be mindful of the timing; machinery should only be used when the soil is dry or frozen in order to minimize ruts.
  • Watch out for accidental leakage of chemicals from logging equipment.
  • Do not reduce the canopy within 100 feet of the pool to less than 70% to minimize drying effects of sun and wind.
  • Michigan Amphibian and Reptile Best Management Practices (www.herprman.com) suggest additional precautions when harvesting.