Salamanders Help Predict Environmental Health of Courses March 11, 2015

University of Missouri researchers report that golf courses can provide habitat that bolsters amphibian populations. 

Currently, there are 14,564 golf courses in the U.S. covering more than 2.2 million acres, and popular opinion suggests that environmentally, golf courses have a negative impact on ecosystems. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri are studying salamanders as a means of determining ecosystem health on golf courses and have determined that they can offer a viable habitat. The USGA helped fund some of the early research to evaluate how amphibians use golf course habitats.

“If you look at the literature on golf courses, historically they get a lot of bad publicity,” said Ray Semlitsch, Curators Professor of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science at MU. “It’s always been thought that course managers not only clear the land, but they add a lot of chemicals to the environment. In terms of maintaining the turf of the golf course, managers use herbicides, insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers. We went into the research study thinking these things were going to be toxic and bad to the salamanders. What we found was quite the opposite—golf courses can actually provide a wonderful habitat for salamanders and other organisms where they can survive and thrive.”

The study included 10 golf courses in the southern Appalachian region of western North Carolina. All courses were within a 30-mile radius of the Highlands Biological Station. Sampling focused on both larvae and adult salamanders in streams that crossed fairways within the golf courses. Water sample analysis checked for chemicals and adverse substances that might be detrimental to the salamanders located on the courses.

“We have this image of pristine and highly manicured fairways such as the ones we see in Augusta, or at Pebble Beach,” Semlitsch said. “However, our research suggests a more natural course that includes streams with leaf litter, sticks, and twigs that offer a natural habitat for different species is preferred. Turf and golf course managers are taking note of these practices, and it is making a real ecological difference.”

A link to the full press release:  Salamanders Help Predict Health of Ecosystems on U.S. Golf Courses, MU Researchers Find

Source: Jeff Sossamon (, Research Information Specialist, MU News Bureau

Additional Information: Golf Courses Could Bolster Amphibian Communities