Plethodon sherando - Highton, 2004
Big Levels Salamander
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Plethodon sherando Highton, 2004 (TSN 775911)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.757080
Element Code: AAAAD12550
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Salamanders
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Caudata Plethodontidae Plethodon
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Highton, R. 2004. A new species of woodland salamander of the Plethodon cinereus group from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Jeffersoniana 14:1-22.
Concept Reference Code: A04HIG01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Plethodon sherando
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G2
Global Status Last Reviewed: 27Oct2017
Global Status Last Changed: 13Jan2005
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: Extremely restricted range (<80 km2); vulnerable to stochastic events, disease, climate change, and gene swamping. Currently not protected.
Nation: United States
National Status: N2 (27Oct2017)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Virginia (S2)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: VU - Vulnerable

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: <100 square km (less than about 40 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Endemic to the central Blue Ridge Mountains of the southern Appalachians in Virginia (Highton 2004). Plethodon sherando is known to occur at elevations between 579-1,091 meters in a small area of 63 km2 - 73 km2 in the Big Levels region of Augusta County, Virginia; it has been taken sympatrically with P. cinereus at five sites at lower elevations (Highton 2004, Bayer et al. 2012).

Number of Occurrences: 6 - 20
Number of Occurrences Comments: Fifteen populations are known in the Big Levels area of the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province of Augusta and Nelson counties, Virginia (Highton 2004). Additional surveys could reveal more populations.

Population Size: Unknown

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Few to some (4-40)
Percent Area with Good Viability/Integrity: Unknown percentage of area with excellent or good viability or ecological integrity

Overall Threat Impact: High - medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Has extremely restricted range (<80 km2), making this species highly vulnerable to stochastic events, disease, climate change, and gene swamping. Currently not protected.

Short-term Trend: Unknown
Short-term Trend Comments: No information on short-term population trend is available.

Long-term Trend: Unknown
Long-term Trend Comments: No information on long-term population trend is available.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable
Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Its range is surrounded by a more common congener, making it potentially vulnerable to genetic swamping via introgression and hybridization. P. sherando has very low genetic diversity and a distinct evolutionary history (Bayer et al. 2012).

Environmental Specificity: Narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements common.
Environmental Specificity Comments: The P. cinereus group is known to be sensitive to climate, suggesting, P. sherando may be vulnerable to climate change (Bayer et al. 2012). Occurs in very limited elevational range, where warming of mountaintop habitat is occurring.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Protection Needs: Need for forest management to address habitat conservation needs of this range-restricted, endemic species. Bayer et al. (2012) suggest P. sherando be federally protected, and that their habitat be protected similarly to that of P. hubrichti, where timber harvest occurs outside of their surface activity period and woody debris are left behind to provide necessary habitat.

Distribution
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Global Range: (<100 square km (less than about 40 square miles)) Endemic to the central Blue Ridge Mountains of the southern Appalachians in Virginia (Highton 2004). Plethodon sherando is known to occur at elevations between 579-1,091 meters in a small area of 63 km2 - 73 km2 in the Big Levels region of Augusta County, Virginia; it has been taken sympatrically with P. cinereus at five sites at lower elevations (Highton 2004, Bayer et al. 2012).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single state or province

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States VA

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2005


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
VA Augusta (51015), Nelson (51125)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
02 South Fork Shenandoah (02070005)+, Maury (02080202)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: Is a montane Woodland Salamander of the Plethodon cinereus group.
Diagnostic Characteristics: Morphologically, P. sherando most closely resembles P. cinereus (and P. serratus). Besides genetic differences between the species, P. sherando has longer legs, a shorter trunk (one less vertebra, on average) and a slightly wider head than P. cinereus.

Habitat Type: Terrestrial
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Bare rock/talus/scree, Forest/Woodland
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: It occurs in temperate forests and on rocky talus slopes at elevations between 579-1,091 meters. It lives under dead leaves and bark.
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: The species lacks any protection or conservation status within the U.S. or the State of Virginia. Most of its range occurs within the George Washington National Forest, but no management actions are taken currently to protect the habitat needs of the species.  Occurs in very limited elevational range, where warming of its mountaintop habitat is occurring. As a highly restricted mountaintop endemic, the most critical threat to this species is climate change (Bayer 2012). The P. cinereus group is known to be sensitive to climate, suggesting, P. sherando may be vulnerable to climate change (Bayer et al. 2012). Its range is surrounded by a more common congener, making it potentially vulnerable to genetic swamping via introgression and hybridization. Range replacement by competing species with higher thermal tolerances is a potential threat (Bayer 2012). P. sherando has very low genetic diversity and a distinct evolutionary history (Bayer et al. 2012), which may limit its adaptive potential. 

Forest management is needed to address habitat conservation needs of this range-restricted, endemic species. Bayer et al. (2012) suggest that P. sherando be federally protected, and that their habitat be protected similarly to that of P. hubrichti, where timber harvest occurs outside of their surface activity period and woody debris are left behind to provide necessary habitat. Management needs include: 1) close monitoring of population status and trends, 2) understanding how timber harvesting, other management activities, and climate change are affecting the species, 3) understanding habitat conservation needs and implementing habitat protection within their endemic range.
 

Biological Research Needs: Close monitoring of population status and trends; understanding how timber harvesting, other management activities, and climate change are impacting the species.
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 27Oct2017
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Davidson, A.D.
Management Information Edition Date: 20Nov2017
Management Information Edition Author: Davidson, A.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Highton, R. 2004. A new species of woodland salamander of the Plethodon cinereus group from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Jeffersoniana 14:1-22.

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