NHESP Guidelines NHESP
(pdf download)

Procedure for certification Certification

Certification with obligate species Obligate
species method

Certification with obligate species Details (OSM)
Certification with facultative species Facultative
species method

Maps needed for certification Maps
Form needed for certification Observation

Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

Massachusetts Vernal Pool Certification
by Obligate Vernal Pool Species

Obligate vernal pool species are those organisms which breed or live only in waters free from permanent populations of fish. Because they require vernal pools to complete their life cycle, we refer to them as obligate vernal pool breeders, obligate vernal pool species, or the improper shorthand, "obligate species".

In Massachusetts, the obligate species are the spotted salamander, blue-spotted salamander, Jefferson salamander, marbled salamander, wood frog and fairy shrimp. Breeding activity by any of these amphibians or the presence of fairy shrimp indicates a vernal pool.

Documentation of a vernal pool by obligate species requires 1) a photograph of the vernal pool holding water and 2) photographs or audio recording of breeding activity (wood frog chorus, mating adults, eggs, larvae, or emergents) of the amphibians or photographs of fairy shrimp from the pool.

Provide the following evidence:
vernal pool holding waterA photograph of the pool holding water. The pool photograph (or photographs) should show that the vernal pool has no permanent outlet. This is not always easy to document in photographs. However, your pictures should establish that the pool is isolated from other bodies of water and not just a small area of a large wetland. Provide photos of inlets and outlets such as streams and culverts. Label the photos on the back with location, date, direction being viewed, a caption, and sign them. If you use a digital camera, print out the images,annotate them and sign the printout.

Evidence of obligate amphibian breeding or presence fairy shrimp.
Evidence that a pool is used by obligate species would include the presence of fairy shrimp in the water, a wood frog chorus, a salamander breeding congress, salamander sprermatophores, amphibian egg masses in the water, swimming larvae, and fully developed larvae emerging from the pool. You need to provide photographs of one of these activities. In some cases, minimum numbers to be documented have been established to assure that the pool is used by a population of the species and not merely a couple of indiduals.

The photographs below are examples of the evidence that could be used to certify a vernal pool by the obligate species method. Clear, recognizable photographs with good captions and annotations are important. On the back of each photograph (or beside it for printouts of digital images), indicate the pool at which the picture was taken, the subject in the picture, the date, and then sign it. If you find more than one obligate species using the pool, record as many as you can.

Go to the details page for information about required evidence, examples, and some photographic tips.

Marbled salamander in nest

Blue-spotted larva

Wood frogs in amplexus

wood frog eggs

Spotted salamander eggs

Spotted sal. spermatophores

Hatched spotted sal. eggs

Fairy shrimp

Blue-spotted eggs