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A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

Maidenhair fern —

Maidenhair fern — Photo: OMNR Forest Succession Part II Nature closely ties forest succession to forest structure and the amount or complexity of vegetation that you find at various heights in the forest, known as vertical structure. The vertical structure of forests differ depending on their stage of succession. The main plant layers include the overstorey (main canopy), the intermediate storey (mid-canopy) and the understorey. levels. These trees can be sparse or close together to create a tight canopy. Removal of the canopy trees changes the intermediate and understorey environments, and provides an opportunity for saplings to be released from the shade and grow into the canopy. In some forests there is a supercanopy layer, of individual trees that jut out above the main canopy, like a tall white pine. 1. Overstorey (Main Canopy): includes the natural assemblage of larger tree species. This layer can create a canopy that influences overall light availability and average temperatures at the lower 2. Intermediate (Mid-Canopy): includes smaller and larger shrubs, smaller species of trees, and young saplings of larger overstorey tree species. These plants may be adapted to softer light and Main Vegetation Layers of the Forest Artwork: Peter Burke 18 Forest Birds in Ontario

Male Black-throated Blue Warbler — Photo: Garth McElroy cooler temperatures created by the shading effect of the overstorey canopy. Woody perennial plants (trees and shrubs) dominate the intermediate storey. 3. Understorey: includes the lowest vegetation layer such as mosses, ferns, grasses, small wildflowers, and other low ground covering herbaceous or woody plants (shrubs and tree seedlings). Immediately following clear cutting or farmland abandonment, the bare land will begin to support patches of herbaceous vegetation such as grasses and forbs. This habitat will be suitable for grassland species like Eastern Meadowlark and Bobolink. As succession advances, woody shrubs, seedlings, and saplings invade the area, providing habitat for species like Gray Catbirds and Eastern Towhees. Early and mid-successional forests may have two layers, an understorey of shrubs and young trees, and an overstorey of canopy trees. Once the overstorey tree canopies become interlocking, the forest floor is typically bare until canopy trees are taller and natural mortality or human intervention creates gaps where light can reach the forest floor. Within late-successional or old growth forests, structural diversity is usually high, there are extensive patches of dense herbaceous ground cover, and understorey of seedlings and shrubs, intermediate layers of saplings and small trees, a lower canopy of small trees, and a primary canopy of mature trees. Overall, the age structure of forests within our human dominated landscape has shifted towards younger forests, at the expense of species dependent on mature forest conditions. Land managers can use management techniques to encourage old growth features and pockets of high structural diversity. They should make an effort to preserve existing old growth stands and provide for the development of future old growth stands by leaving areas undisturbed or unharvested for 150 years or more. Controlling ungulates, particularly whitetailed deer or grazing cattle, monitoring and controlling invasive plants and human recreational activities may be necessary to protect understorey vegetation and sensitive habitats in some areas. Landbird Migration Stop-Over Areas Forests provide birds with food, water, and cover, not only during the breeding season but for some, throughout the year, and for others, at critical stages during migration. Stopover habitats are essential to successful bird migrations. Migrating birds need these critical stopover locations in the same way we need gas stations, restaurants, hotels, and rest areas when we take long trips. Strategically located patches of woods, wetlands, and other natural habitats with adequate food and shelter ensure the survival of a species. If development continues to remove these habitats from our landscape, it becomes increasingly difficult for exhausted migrants to find suitable areas to rest and refuel. Large numbers of migrating birds move along the shorelines of the Great Lakes, stopping to rest, feed, and/or wait for inclement weather to pass before attempting to cross open water. Because each species has different habitat requirements, they require a variety of relatively undisturbed habitat types, ranging from open fields to mature forests. In particular, forested habitats within 5 km of the Great Lakes (especially Lake Erie and Lake Ontario) provide roosting areas, cover from predators and foul weather, and food for large numbers of migratory birds. Landowners and managers can help protect important migratory stopover areas by using restoration and silvicultural approaches that maintain forested land, especially along watercourses and in areas where little woodland remains. As a general rule, like breeding birds, managing forests for habitat diversity is good for migrating birds. Diverse, mature forests with shrub and sapling layers will provide a high diversity of edible fruits and nuts in the fall that allow migrants to replenish their resources prior to the next leg of their journey. Regenerating field — Photo: Harold Lee Forest Birds in Ontario 19

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