Description

The Fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) is one of Europe's largest salamanders (up to 20 cm in length). They have a stocky body with a black base color and a pattern of yellow spots or stripes. In the Netherlands they can't be confused with any other salamander due to their appearance. The larvae are brown/black and develop light yellow spots as they get older. These spots are especially noticeable at the base of their legs, close to the body. 

 

Distribution & Life History

The Fire salamander is the only strictly terrestrial salamander in the Netherlands. All other Urodelans in the Netherlands are newts which have a aquatic phase in spring during mating season. In the Netherlands the species only occurs in the region called "Southern Limburg" in the most southern tip of the country (enclosed by Belgium and Germany - see map). Incidental records from the south-east of the province Gelderland and the extreme northeast of the province Overijssel are known but no populations exist in these areas (they do in nearby Germany). A hilly landscape with streams make up the natural habitat of the species. Calcareous soil, streams and seeps and a high ground water level appear to be the most important habitat requirements. Another important habitat characteristic are shaded, cool and moist hiding places. Larvae are deposited in clear, oxygenated water like streams, wells and ponds fed by streams. Worms and slugs make of the bulk of the diet of adult animals.  Adults have a very small home range and individuals may be found in the some location for many years. 

 

Protection

In the Netherlands the Fire salamander has been included in the National Red List (Staatscourant, 2009 cf. van Delft et al., 2007). All amphibians in the Netherlands enjoy protection through national law which protects native species (Flora and Fauna wet, table 3) including the Fire salamander. The Bern Convention also included the Fire salamander as a protected species (appendix 3).

 

Monitoring

The Fire salamander requires a very different monitoring method than the other Dutch Urodelans and amphibians in general. During the mating season the animals are counted on land at a fixed line transect. Via this standardized method population estimations and population trends can be calculated. 

This line transect must be located in an area where abundance is high and representative of the population. Stream, forest trails of a combination of both are very suitable. The transect must be surveyed in approximately three hours and depending the nature of the terrain is 1.5 to 2.5 km long. On both sides of the transect the observer searches for wandering individuals. Surveys are preferably conducted in the evenings when weather conditions are optimal. Animals can be located with a strong flashlight. Surveys targeted for larvae are done in the same fashion. With a flash light streams are surveyed for the presence of larvae. 

The transects needs to visited four times a year (minimum); once during spring, once during summer and twice during autumn. The exact amount of individuals encountered must be recorded. 

 

Method:

  • Counting adult animals along a fixed (line-) transect on land (late March until early April, August until September)
  • Additional survey methods: searching for larvae in breeding water (May until July)


Populations TREND

Fire salamanders populations in the Netherlands have declined sharply and rapidly. After 2009 they have crashed and have not shown signs of recovery since. In the Netherlands this species is on the brink of extinction. The index of 2014 is 0.13 which means that the size of the population in 2014 in comparison to 1997 has declined with >99%. The remaining population is being surveyed intensively along several transects during favorable weather conditions (preferably after sunset when it is raining). In the location called Bunderbos individuals are found sporadically. In the location called Vijlenerbos no animals have been found the last years, despite extra survey efforts. The collapse of the Dutch Fire salamander populations is directly tied to the invasive fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal). 

 

Information regarding population trend calculations