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Assessment Results

© 2017 Alexander Murray (1 of 31 )

AmphibiaWeb species account

IUCN Red List assessment

Conservation Needs Assessment

Plethodon welleri ,   Weller's Salamander
Assessed for:  United States   on: 23 Dec 2017   by: Walter Smith  
Assessment Status: Completed  
Order:   Caudata     Family:   Plethodontidae

IUCN Global Red List:   Endangered (EN)   
IUCN National Red List:   (not assessed)   
Distribution:     United States  
Evolutionary Distinctiveness score:   14.00408014 
Recommended Conservation Actions:   Conservation Education   
Additional Comments:   Initial assessment data compiled by David A. Beamer and Michael J. Lannoo from “Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species”, edited by Michael Lannoo (©2005 by the Regents of the University of California), used with permission of the editor. The book is available from UC Press, http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/9484.html, and species accounts can be found on AmphibiaWeb, www.amphibiaweb.org. Original species account transcribed by Kevin Johnson. 

Question #Short NameQuestion TextResponseComments
1 Extinction risk Current IUCN Red List category. [Data obtained from the IUCN Red List.] Endangered (EN) Weller's salamanders are listed as a Species of Special Concern in North Carolina and as Wildlife in Need of Management in Tennessee. The species is listed as Tier II (Very High Conservation Need) in Virginia.
2 Possibly extinct Is there a strong possibility that this species might be extinct in the wild? No / unlikely
3 Phylogenetic significance The taxon’s Evolutionary Distinctiveness (ED) score, as generated by the ZSL EDGE program. (These data are not editable by Assessors). ED value < 20
4 Protected habitat Is a population of at least 50% of the individuals of the taxon included within a reliably protected area or areas? Yes / probably Weller’s salamanders are usually restricted to high elevations in areas with spruce-fir forest. Thus, populations are generally separated by uninhabited lower elevations. However, many of these populations are located in national forests, state parks, or other conservation lands that afford some degree of protection against habitat disturbance.
5 Habitat for reintroduction Does enough suitable habitat exist, either within or outside of currently protected areas that is suitable for potential reintroduction or translocation? Yes / probably Many of the known high-elevation populations of this species occur within state or federal conservation lands without significant habitat disturbance.
6 Previous reintroductions Have reintroduction or translocation attempts been made in the past for this species? No
7 Threat mitigation Are the threats facing the taxon, including any new and emerging threats not considered in the IUCN Red List, potentially reversible? Species does not require conservation action Much of the concern with the rarity of this species lies in its limited, fragmented distribution and putative sensitivity to the loss of high-elevation forests. However, much of this distribution occurs within state or federal conservation lands that afford at least some degree of habitat protection.
8 Over-collection from the wild Is the taxon suffering from unsustainable collection within its natural range, either for food, for the pet trade or for any other reason, which threatens the species’ continued persistence in the wild? No / unlikely
9 Population recovery Is the known population of this species in the wild large enough to recover naturally, without ex situ intervention if threats are mitigated? Yes / probably Little direct data are available on the estimated size of various high-elevation populations of this species. Highton (2005) indicated a decline in encounter rates in North Carolina/Tennessee and Virginia populations from the mid to late 20th century. However, it is currently unknown if these data represent true a true decline, natural population fluctuations, or artifacts of imperfect detection. Hamed (2014) did not observe this same trend in a more rigorous sampling effort comparing current and historical data and indicated that the species has also extended its range downward in elevation in the Whitetop Mountain area of Virginia. This would suggest that at least some populations of Weller's Salamander are abundant and even increasing in their local distribution.
10 Biological distinctiveness Does the taxon exhibit, for example, a distinctive reproductive mode, behaviour, aspect of morphology or physiology, within its Class (e.g. Amphibia, Reptilia etc.)? No aspect of biology known to be exceptional
11 Cultural/socio-economic importance Does the taxon have a special human cultural value (e.g. as a national or regional symbol, in a historic context, featuring in traditional stories) or economic value (e.g. food, traditional medicine, tourism) within its natural range or in a wider global context? No Weller's Salamander is known locally as a unique component of high-elevation Appalachian ecosystems, although it is not well-known among the general population of the region.
12 Scientific importance Is the species vital to current or planned research other than species-specific ecology/biology/conservation? (e.g. human medicine, climate change, environmental pollutants and conservation science), within its Class (e.g. Amphibia, Reptilia etc.)? Research dependent upon < 6 species (incl. this taxon) As a high-elevation species, Weller's Salamander is an important model organism for understanding the ongoing and potential impacts of climate change on small-ranged habitat specialists. Hamed (2014) used Weller's Salamanders, along with several other sympatric taxa, to investigate climate change-related impacts on high-elevation salamanders in the Appalachian Mountain region of North America.
13 Ex situ research Does conserving this species (or closely related species) in situ depend upon research that can be most easily carried out ex situ? No
14 Husbandry analog Do the biological and ecological attributes of this species make it suitable for developing husbandry regimes for more threatened related species? i.e. could this species be used in captivity to help to develop husbandry and breeding protocols which could be used for a similar, but more endangered species at a later stage? No
15 Captive breeding Has this species been successfully maintained and bred in captivity? Maintained but no successful breeding (Tim Herman, pers. comm.).
16 Educational potential Is the species especially diurnal/active/colourful and therefore suited to be an educational ambassador for conservation of this group of species? Yes Weller's Salamanders are strikingly patterned plethodontids, and their unique association with high-elevation habitats makes them an ideal educational model for lungless salamander conservation. However, any removal of individuals from the field for educational programming should first consider the conservation ranking and limited range of the species and should be done in close consultation with state and federal officials.
17 Mandate Is there an existing conservation mandate recommending the ex situ conservation of this taxon? No
18 Range State approval Would a proposed ex situ initiative for this species be supported (and approved) by the range State (either within the range State or out-of-country ex situ)? Yes / probably Weller's Salamanders have been maintained ex situ, although close consultation should be performed with state and federal wildlife officials prior to proposing any future initiatives.
19 Founder specimens Are sufficient animals of the taxon available or potentially available (from wild or captive sources) to initiate the specified ex situ program? Yes / probably
20 Taxonomic status Has a complete taxonomic analysis of the species in the wild been carried out, to fully understand the functional unit you wish to conserve (i.e. have species limits been determined)? Yes

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