Herpetofauna & Invertebrate Coverboards

Tracking nature’s health indicators over time

In association with a post-fire forest restoration project funded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Pepperwood has installed over 90 coverboards distributed throughout the reserve. Coverboards are square pieces of plywood that rest on the forest floor, installed flush with the soil, to provide inviting shelter for herpetofauna and invertebrates. Every two weeks from December to June, our dedicated stewards and volunteers go out with our research staff to check underneath the boards to count and document herpetofauna. The boards are a convenient and controlled way to monitor these sensitive species and to measure changes in species diversity over time.

Monitoring plots are located in different types of forest, which helps us identify how the type of forest vegetation and its overall structure, or the size and spatial distribution of trees and shrubs, influences the diversity and abundance of amphibians and reptiles. In addition to the coverboards, each plot includes co-located climate sensors and wildlife cameras. We combine these observations of how many species we see with weather and soils data to understand the relationships between forest structure, watershed health, and biodiversity. The information we glean is an important part of our forest research program, one of the first in our region designed to capture the impacts of climate and fire on forest health. We are also comparing results between places where we do and do not conduct forest thinning and controlled burning – to understand the impacts of our forest stewardship on herpetofauna diversity.

Contact: Wildlife Specialist, Steven Hammerich – shammerich@pepperwoodpreserve.org