New Hampshire: Save vernal pool fairy shrimp who feed many

Vernal pools are usually small shallow depressions in the woodland
floor that fills with spring rain and melting snows. They have no
inlet or outlet and they form in the same location each year. The
creatures that migrate to the pools do so by the millions and follow
the journey of countless millions of their critter ancestors going
back to when the glaciers retreated our area some 10,000 years ago.
The migrating amphibians are spotted salamanders and wood frogs. The
pools themselves offer another mysterious creature which can not
migrate to or from the vernal pool.

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The fairy shrimp lives, survives, breeds, and produces the next
generation all in the same limited area of the vernal pool. Remember,
vernal pools normally dry up in the summer until the next spring. The
eggs of the mating adults settle into the layers of leaves as the pool
dries up.

They hatch the following year when the pool swells with
spring rains and winter snow melt. Why are these creatures important?
If one were able to scoop up all the living creatures that use vernal
pools to breed and propagate their species, there would be a huge pile
of what biologists call biomass. This biomass is available to other
woodland creatures including turtles (some rare species), insects,
birds, and mammals to feed themselves and their own young.

This availability of a food source comes at a critical time for many of
these predators when there is nothing else available so early in the
spring. In everyday human life we concern ourselves with the immediate
crisis at home or at work. We are just too busy to notice another
world — one that is older than us and our family heritage — just
outside our windows. What we don’t see, we don’t know. What we don’t
know, we don’t care about. For New England, Massachusetts led the way
for educating the public and lawmakers. In my state, Maine dragged its
heels for decades and has a controversial law to protect the areas
from further development.

It’s always a hard sell to convince
landowners and developers of the significance of vernal pools and the
creatures they support because there’s no poster child like the bald
eagle or Canada lynx on display. If people could relate to the spotted
salamander like they do with the cute gecko lizard with the human
Australian accent on their TV sets, vernal pools would soar to the top
of places of concern to protect. Alas, there’s no talking spotted
salamander or wood frog to endear them to the hearts of developers or
bulldozer operators.

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