Vernal Pools: Coyote Valley’s Seasonal Special

As part of our campaign to protect Coyote Valley, we’ve talked a lot about its remarkable biodiversity and the different types of habitats you can find within it. But while most of the habitats in Coyote Valley are present year-round, there’s a very special one that exists only in the rainy season. Meet the vernal pools, a kind of temporary pond created when rain can’t be entirely absorbed by an underlayer of soil. These rainy-season features support amphibian life in Coyote Valley, including threatened species such as the California red-legged frog.

Vernal pools are something of a Californian oddity–they thrive in Mediterranean climates and California’s pools stand out for their many native species. Since Coyote Valley is a floodplain, and much of it used to be covered in wetlands, it’s a natural home for these sorts of pools, which occur in low-lying areas with hard subsoil layers. In Coyote Valley, the vernal pools are notable for supporting two threatened species, the California tiger salamander and the California red-legged frog. In their strictly aquatic life stages, these species find refuge in the vernal pools even as amphibian populations across the country are in decline.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has estimated that about 90% of California’s vernal pools have been lost. While much of that loss occurred in the early days of agricultural expansion, the process has continued in recent decades and the threat of development in Coyote Valley imperils these special habitats further. Frogs and salamanders thrive when Coyote Valley’s ecosystem is healthiest, and vernal pools are just another reason we must protect Coyote Valley.

All photo credits Creative Commons.

About Protect Coyote Valley

The Protect Coyote Valley campaign is led by Committee for Green Foothills and supported by Greenbelt Alliance, Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, SAGE — Sustainable Agriculture Education, and the Land Trust of Santa Clara Valley. It aims to preserve Coyote Valley, San Jose as open space that offers flood-buffering wetlands, an essential wildlife habitat and migratory area, and active farmlands.

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