One of the biggest historical threats to the Shenandoah salamander is competition with the more aggressive and widespread eastern red-backed salamander. This species effectively excludes the Shenandoah salamander from more favourable habitats by driving it from moist soil pockets and forcing it to inhabit the drier areas of rocky scree (1) (5) (7) (9) (10).
Climate change is also considered to be a major concern for populations of the Shenandoah salamander, and is likely to exacerbate the problems created by competition with the eastern red-backed salamander (1). As a mountain-dwelling species, the Shenandoah salamander lives at the limit of its natural climatic distribution (7). The Appalachian region is expected to warm by around two to six degrees Celsius over the next century, which will have considerable impact on the Shenandoah salamander’s ability to survive in its already marginal habitat (4) (10).
Rising temperatures and decreasing frequency of rain will also reduce the level of moisture in the surrounding environment, which will directly affect the Shenandoah salamander’s activity cycles, altering the timing and frequency of key events such as foraging and breeding. Rising and more variable temperatures are also thought to be a key driver in the spread of disease and pathogens, such as the devastating chytrid fungus which has been implicated in the local extinction of many amphibians worldwide (4).
Other threats to the Shenandoah salamander include pollution, altered soil chemistry due to the acidification of soil and freshwater, the loss of leaves on trees because of invasive plant pest species, energy production and mining, fires, and habitat fragmentation. Human development and recreation also pose a threat to the Shenandoah salamander (1) (2) (4) (5) (8).