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Jollyville Salamander Could Be Adapting To Drought

Photo courtesy of the City of Austin by Mark Sanders.
The Jollyville Plateau Salamander lives in the plateau it gets its name from, as well as the Brushy Creek areas of the Edwards Plateau in Travis and Williamson County.

A city biologist told the Austin City Council yesterday that the Jollyville Plateau Salamander has the potential to delay construction on the city's Water Treatment Plant Four.

At its work session Tuesday, city staff briefed the Council on what the construction and planning team of WTP4 is doing to lessen environmental impacts caused by the Jollyville transmission main and the four access shaft sites.

Nathan Bendik told council members that his research during the 2008-2009 drought showed an increase in the salamander's population. Some of that could have been due to migration, Bendik said, but he did see juvenile salamanders after a site had been dried for 10 months. That means there was more opportunity for the creatures to reproduce

“We are not seeing a population crash which is what we might have expected,” he said.

He added the size of the salamanders’ bodies was shrinking.

“I think what this is, is some type of adaptation or response to an energetically stressful environment," he said referring to the salamander's evolutionary pattern. “I think the salamanders are more resilient to drought condition than initially I expected. ”

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified the Jollyville Plateau Salamander as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act. City staff overseeing the environmental mitigation plan for WTP4 told City Council that an announcement on the salamander's protection would be announced late 2013 or spring of 2014. If construction remains on schedule, the plant would be completed around the same time. 

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