Appalachian Salamander Ecology

Jordan’s Red Cheek Salamander from Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Appalachian Salamander Ecology

Salamanders are among the most abundant vertebrate animals in temperate deciduous forests of eastern North America. Because of their abundance, salamanders are responsible for the transfer of energy between highly disparate levels of trophic organization: detrital food webs and high‐order predators. By predating leaf litter insects (particularly shredders), salamanders are thought to slow the leaf litter decomposition process, resulting in less soil respiration and fewer carbon emmissions. Therefore, salamanders represent one of the most important ecosystem services in forests. Unfortunately, salamanders’ predicted sensitivity to climate change suggests these services may not be rendered indefinitely… My research aims to understand how salamanders will respond to natural and anthropogenic disturbances, as well furthering out understand of their natural history.

Interests in Appalachian Salamander Research:

  • Studying population dynamics of salamanders in relation to natural disturbance (e.g. canopy perforation)
  • Investigating how salamanders respond to a competition-disturbance gradient
  • Understanding how climate change will affect salamanders across elevation gradients


  • Baecher, JA, E Jones, SC Richter. 2020. Tail bifurcation in two species of Desmognathus salamander Caudata: Plethodontidae in southeastern Kentucky, USA. Herpetological Bulletin
  • Baecher, JA, SC Richter. 2018. Environmental gradients in an old-growth Appalachian Forest predict fine-scale distribution, co-occurrence, and abundance of woodland salamanders. Ecology and Evolution
J Alex Baecher
J Alex Baecher
Postdoctoral Researcher

My research interests include landscape ecology and applied conservation of reptiles and amphibians