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The Barton Springs salamanders crawl back to Austin

Friday, May 4, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

Every year in April, Austin’s environmental officer releases a report on the state of our environment to remind citizens that their tax dollars really do go to work to make a difference in the world they live in. One of the most noteworthy parts of this year’s report is the reappearance of the Barton Spring salamander. Long associated with Barton Springs, the Barton Springs salamander actually roams far and wide through the aquifers and springs of Central Texas and serves as a water quality indicator. At the last meeting of the Environmental Commission, Environmental Officer Chuck Lesniak said during his presentation of the report that this year, staff biologists documented the presence of this endangered species at four springs along Barton and Onion creeks where it had never before been spotted. A project that has been a boon for the endangered salamanders is the Eliza Stream Daylighting Project, which has restored approximately 250 square feet of salamander stream habitat. According to Lesniak, the results of the Watershed Protection Department’s efforts have been almost immediately apparent. Since the Eliza project was completed last September, “we’re starting to see mosses and invertebrates in that stream which are the salamanders’ food sources,” he said. Now that the population numbers are climbing, Lesniak said staff biologists are collecting DNA sequence data from salamanders to determine whether they migrate between different springs and watersheds and to help us understand them better as a species.

This whisper has been corrected to identify the salamander as the Barton Springs salamander.

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