Carola Haas’ research focuses on wildlife populations in managed ecosystems, with a focus on breeding and movement behavior of amphibians, birds, and reptiles. She coordinates several multi-decade long studies on topics including forest management practices on understory processes and diversity in Appalachian hardwood forests (plethodontid salamanders), loggerhead shrike nesting ecology in the Great Plains, and the role of fire, grazing, and changing hydrology in wetland restoration (flatwoods salamanders and bog turtles). She is particularly interested in how agricultural and forestry practices can benefit native wildlife populations.
The extensive longleaf pine ecosystem of the southeastern US has been extremely reduced and degraded after decades of exploitation and fire suppression. Although land managers have worked to successfully restore conditions to uplands using prescribed fire, ephemeral and riparian wetlands in this system are still not burning at natural frequencies. These degraded wetlands may have altered litter, light penetration, hydroperiod, and emergent herbaceous vegetation. We are partnering with the state of Florida’s Aquatic Habitat Restoration and Enhancement program and federal agencies on an adaptive management project to study how rare and declining amphibians respond as we attempt restoration of a more open midstory and more grassy understory.
Southern Appalachian forests have one of the highest densities and diversities of salamanders in the world. Salamanders occur in lower densities in forest stands that have been recently clearcut. However, few studies have addressed the effects of other timber harvesting practices on terrestrial salamanders. The size and type of timber harvest produce different effects on wildlife habitat, and may influence salamander populations differently. This project compares several economically viable methods of forest management. For the past 15 years, we have monitored the effects of 7 different oak regeneration techniques at 6 sites in Virginia and West Virginia. Preliminary results indicate a decline in relative abundance of salamanders on plots with any disturbance to the forest canopy. See link to project website below.
The bog turtle is a small freshwater turtle found in isolated sphagnum bogs and marshy meadows in the eastern United States. Habitat loss and collection for the pet trade have caused many populations to decline and the bog turtle is now afforded legal protection in every state in which it is found. We examined importance of habitat corridors, soils and hydrology of occupied wetlands, and reproductive ecology.
The flatwoods salamander and the Florida bog frog are rare amphibians with small geographic ranges. For both species we are evaluating how habitat affects small and large scale distribution and whether current management practices are effective for these species. The maintenance of historic fire patterns and connectivity of habitats may be critical to the survival of these species, but challenging to implement.