The Metroparks Vernal Pool Monitoring Program raises public awareness about the existence of vernal pools and their importance to local biodiversity, allows people to participate in a field-research based program, and establishes baseline information about the overall biodiversity for a selected vernal pool. This survey looks at the vernal pool as part of an interconnected ecosystem because the health of a vernal pool is an indicator of the health of the surrounding environment.
The survey started in 2004 and has continued on an annual basis and is entirely a volunteer initiative. It lasts throughout the summer (depending on the water depth), starting in early March and continues every other week with one special night monitoring event in mid-June. The location varies each year.
Each year, either a summary or detailed reports of the seasonal information are sent to the Metroparks of the Toledo Area, Frog Watch USA (a national amphibian program), and the Ohio Environmental Council who maintained a state-wide database on vernal pools (discontinued as of 2015). A report about the yearly Vernal Pool Survey, in either an oral or poster format, is presented at the Oak Openings Research Forum. In 2009 and 2012, Metroparks Vernal Pool Monitoring program hosted the Ohio Environmental Council’s spring vernal pool workshop, and presented methods and data there as well. In past years, a poster has been presented at other relevant conferences such as the Midwest Oak Savanna and Woodland Conference, the Ohio Declining Amphibians Conference, and the Ephemeral Gems: Exploring Seasonal Ponds Conference at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Lastly, survey data is useful as a measure of biological diversity and as baseline data.
Environmental data such as current weather, cloud cover, air and water temperature, water depth, percent tree canopy cover, and precipitation in the past 24 hours are noted first. After that, a large variety of information is collected about aquatic life, local plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammal tracks and signs, and other life forms that are seen or captured that day within thirty feet of the pool’s edge. During the yearly night monitoring event, additional information is collected for calling frogs and toads.
Important Reasons to Monitor Vernal Pools:
- Vernal pools are temporary wetlands found in many local woods. They are very high in biodiversity, and are critical breeding habitat for several species, including salamanders and frogs.
- Classified as wetlands but having little protection, vernal pools can be centuries old, and each one holds a unique mix of aquatic life.
- Vernal Pools enable other aquatic wildlife to breed successfully (before the pools dry and disappear), due to the fact that they lack fish.