Road and pipeline infrastructure development for natural gas extraction often results in forest fragmentation, which could negatively influence habitat quality for many amphibian species. We investigated occurrence dynamics of the eastern red-backed salamander Plethodon cinereus in relation to natural gas pipeline rights-of-way (ROW) and forest structure characteristics in northern Pennsylvania. Eighty sites were sampled across two study areas using coverboards, with each site containing sampling plots at the center of the ROW, the edge of the ROW, and 10 m and 30 m into the adjacent forest. We assessed the influence of ROW age, ROW width, distance from ROW, and five forest structure characteristics on plot occupancy probability. Eastern red-backed salamander occupancy probability decreased with ROW age and increased with distance from ROW. Our results indicate that eastern red-backed salamanders are negatively influenced by forest fragmentation for natural gas ROWs. Moreover, responses were time-dependent, with occupancy probability declining with ROW age. Due to low detections, we were unable to analyze data for the other amphibians and reptiles encountered during the study. Our capture data indicate that ROWs could improve habitat quality for some snake species, but additional research is needed to better understand the influence of ROWs on reptile species. To reduce future forest fragmentation and impacts on eastern red-backed salamander populations, managers could consider placing pipelines along existing linear clearings and enhancing the habitat quality of ROWs for salamanders.

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