The Identification, Mapping, and Management of Seasonal Ponds in Forests of the Great Lakes Region

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Seasonal ponds are small, isolated wetlands with variable hydrology, often occurring embedded in upland forests, which provide habitat for amphibians and invertebrates uniquely adapted to fishless waters. Seasonal ponds are challenging to identify due to their small size, ephemeral hydrology, diverse vegetation, and occurrence across a range of settings, yet in order to inform their conservation and management, it is essential to understand their distribution and how management impacts them. We conducted a systematic review to define and quantify attributes of seasonal ponds, summarize mapping and inventory methods, and synthesize forest harvesting impacts on ponds in the western Great Lakes and northeastern United States. Definitions of seasonal ponds differ regionally and for scientific vs. regulatory purposes; the necessity of documenting pond-dependent indicator species (e.g., fairy shrimp) is one of the most vexing inconsistencies. Seasonal ponds are most effectively mapped in the spring, using a combination of aerial photographs or radar imagery and topographic information, especially in settings with small ponds or heavy canopies. Combining these mapping efforts with carefully stratified field validation is essential for developing a regional inventory of seasonal ponds. Most guidelines intended to reduce impacts of forest harvesting on pond ecosystems rely on buffers, which most effectively minimize physical or biological impacts when most lightly treated, although some impacts (particularly water levels) appear unavoidable when any harvesting occurs adjacent to seasonal ponds. Overall, distinct physical and biological impacts of harvesting differ in magnitude and direction, though most appear to subside over multi-decadal timescales.

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© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Society of Wetland Scientists 2022. Publisher’s version of record:

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