As part of the 2014 Year of the Salamander, there will be a Panel Discussion Symposium on “Fate of Salamanders in the Anthropocene” at the upcoming Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS) annual meeting in NYC on Saturday, June 14, 2014, 9 – 10:30 AM. We are still in need of 1-2 panelists and would love to have a full audience to contribute to the discussion as well, so all are welcome! If you are interested in being a panelist, please contact Mary Beth Kolozsvary (mkolozsvary@siena.edu) as soon as possible.

Panel Discussion Symposium description: “FATE OF SALAMANDERS IN THE ANTHROPOCENE”

With the onset of the Anthropocene, Recent Age of Humans, critical attention is being focused on understanding how large-scale human actions are affecting biological diversity and ecosystem functioning from the local to global scales. There is a pressing need to determine steps that can be taken to ameliorate the effects of human actions and ensure that ecosystems and their processes continue to function. Why are salamanders of particular concern? Salamanders, as mid-level vertebrate predators, are integral to food webs and are important contributors to ecosystem dynamics. Many salamanders actively burrow into the ground and contribute to soil dynamics, improving conditions for other species that inhabit these systems. Although some species are fully aquatic or terrestrial, many salamanders are tied to both environments and serve as important connectors of energy flow between aquatic and terrestrial systems. Roughly half of salamander species worldwide are listed as threatened or extinct, a larger proportion than for frogs or other taxonomic groups that are often cited as symbols of the ongoing biodiversity crisis.

This discussion panel will explore how human actions drive major threats to salamanders and the resulting effects on earth systems. As with many other species, the biggest issue affecting salamander species today is loss and degradation of their natural habitat. Roads can cause direct mortality as salamanders migrate to breeding areas and also disrupt connectivity among populations. The skin of salamanders is highly permeable and they are sensitive to environmental pollution. Other threats, such as introduced species, spread of emerging diseases, and direct human exploitation also play a major role in the fate of salamanders.

The panel will address what steps are being taken to mitigate these human threats. They will also discuss what other important steps need to be taken in the immediate future to ensure the continued persistence of salamanders.