Mountain bikers’ incessant “gold dirt” (mineral earth) digging, off trail, and consumptive trail building habits (four seasons a year), in general, are greatly disturbing terrestrial salamander habitat.
This is one such "gold dirt" pit dug out, off-trail, on Upper Griffen Trail, during a very invasive reroute:
TheWestern Redback Salamander, and Ensatina, have wide distributions in similar terrestrial coniferous forest habitats and are the focus of this manual. These species have similar natural history characteristics but differ in the details of their microhabitat requirements. Locally, they can be very abundant, but populations tend to be patchy across apparently homogeneous habitat. Resources such as mates and prey are obtained primarily at the surface and little or no feeding is thought to take place underground.
Thus, their ability to grow and reproduce is directly related to the length of time that they spend near the surface. They can be found at the surface fairly easily throughout most of the year, but disappear during the coldest part of the winter when below-freezing temperatures force them underground or deep inside logs. Dry conditions late in the summer and in early autumn can have a similar effect.
Western Redback Salamander: Eggs terrestrial; direct development/ in cavities below surface.Habitat: Talus, under rocks, bark and logs on soil or within leaf litter and Sword Fern bases.
Ensatina: Eggs terrestrial; direct development/ cavities below surface or under or within logs. Habitat: Talus, under rocks, bark and logs on soil or within leaf litter.
Western Redback Salamanders/Ensatinas help make soil better for plants and animals when they tunnel through it. Nutrients in the soil get mixed and plants can pull them into their roots more easily. Small animals such as mites and beetles find it easier to move around in the soil.
The NSMBA trailbuilders (TAP and Builders Academy) dig and cut new trails on almost a daily basis, somewhere on the North Shore. More digging, new building and reroutes in the Mountain View Park wetland and upland areas, etc. have been done in recent months (yesterday saw another Trail Day happening on King of the Shore Trail, in the Mountain View Park upland area)
Most of the damage we see is occurring off-trail (out of sight). Where does all that dirt come from, we should wonder? Where do all the rocks come from? Wheelbarrows and buckets full of "gold dirt" and rocks pack the NEW cut trails. Tonnes of this dirt is needed, during a years digging, alone...
New trail cutting and all that incessant and consumptive off-trail digging is damaging many trees/root structures, vegetation, depleting critical soil substrate/topsoil, and overall habitat to many small wildlife, including disturbance of salamanders, as seen by how many mountain bike trail builders seem to be photographed holding these disturbed amphibians in their hands:
Western Redback Salamander
Western Redback Salamander Eggs are well hidden in moist sheltered locations on the forest floor and are seldom found. They are yellowish-cream, 4–5 mm in diameter, and occur in grape-like clusters of 7–11 eggs, attached to the nesting chamber by a broad gelatinous base. Eggs are best identified by the presence of the female, often curled around the eggs. (picture below)
Terrestrial young occupy similar habitats as adults on the forest floor; there is no aquatic larval stage. Hatchlings are small, about 20 mm in total length, and very slender, almost insect-like in appearance.
Spring time is prime breeding season for amphibians, so any alteration to wetlands or streams, particularly instream works or activities affecting flows, water levels, sedimentation, or habitat disturbance within the water or surrounding riparian zone can impact eggs, larvae, or breeding adults. All this "trail" soil eventually washes into our fish-bearing streams and amphibian breeding ponds, etc. Mountain biking is very unsustainable, as it erodes the ground their bike tires rip and shred on. Rock armouring and "gold dirt" packing isn't going to change that fact. The fact the same steep trails are being worked on (rerouted, bypassed and realigned) almost endlessly is a sure sign of mountain bikers' unsustainable activities on our forest slopes.
Spring time is the midst of breeding/rearing season for wildlife, and there are obvious violations happening under our federal Migratory Birds Convention Act (MBCA) and the BC Wildlife Act. DNV should already be aware of this. But, from what I am seeing, these violations are being idisregarded by several parties involved in this incessant and consumptive NEW trail building going on within Mtn. View Park environs.
Will this style of mountain bike-inflicted destruction continue through the fall and winter months, into spring time (2014), once again? I would hope not...!
An end note:
As of March 2013, in a mountain biking article...(mtbers are trying very hard to overturn this regulation. I can only hope that the City of Montreal continues to “stand its ground".
"While road biking and commuting are strong in Montreal, mountain biking is still banned on all public spaces and parks."~ re:Montreal's 30-year-old regulations banning biking in municipal parks.