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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 ...

Logging

Logging gap — Photo: Teresa Piraino 11. Manage high deer populations The sight of a white-tailed deer stops most people in their tracks. Even to the most seasoned rural resident, deer are beautiful, interesting, and graceful creatures that represent the wild. In some parts of southern Ontario, high white-tailed deer populations are a big problem. Even to the untrained eye, the absence of plants at lower levels and a razor-straight browse line (the maximum height at which deer feed) is an obvious sign of high deer populations. Deer browse on trees and shrubs for food and can reduce understorey vegetation and limit tree seedling regeneration. A forest that is over-browsed is open and park like with an unobstructed view of distant tree trunks, inedible plants, and hardy exotics. Excess numbers of deer render an ecosystem’s ability to regenerate virtually impossible. Wildflowers, native shrubs, and tree seedlings have vanished. Without the herbaceous (flowers, grasses, ferns, etc.) and woody plants in the forest’s lower layers, many birds and wildlife are adversely affected. If your woodland has high deer densities you could consider installing deer fencing (page wire or electrical) or allowing deer hunting to reduce deer numbers and provide an opportunity for your forest vegetation to recover. White-tailed deer — Photo: Larry Watkins 12. Manage forest edges, fragment size, and connectivity Though diversity of plants and animals typically increases proportionately with the amount of edge in a stand, these edge species tend to be habitat generalists. Hard edges, in particular, such as those between a woodlot and a cultivated field can be hostile places for many forest specialists. Various factors control edge effects, including forest size, forest shape, surrounding vegetation contrast (hard vs. soft edges), edge orientation, and species specific responses. You can moderate edge effects by a variety of practices, particularly increasing patch size and managing for compact (square or circular) shaped fragments. Small stands, irregularly shaped, and long, narrow stands with high edge exposure are most vulnerable to outside disturbances. We believe edges are detrimental to some birds because of reduced reproductive success and increased rates of nest parasitism and predation, particularly within 50 m of a forest edge. Allowing forests to naturally seed into Naturally seeded field adjacent to forest — Photo: Teresa Piraino 72 Guidelines for Forest Management and Maintenance of Forest Bird Diversity

Blackberry — Photo: Robert McCaw adjacent open fields or planting and maintaining a wider border or buffer around woodlot edges may reduce negative edge effects. You can increase the size of forest fragments or amount of interior habitat by planting trees in large clearings within woodlots, or encouraging natural succession in these openings. If two woodlots are close together, planting in between them to create a larger patch of continuous forest will greatly benefit area sensitive birds in the future. Consideration of which types of species are used for planting and reforestation projects is important. A diversity of native species is best, and matching species to the soil type and light conditions will ensure success. Conservationists agree that landscape or habitat connectivity is important for, if not critical to, population viability, yet they argue over the value of corridors. Critics of connectors have emerged because so many factors influence corridor use, and creating corridors for the benefit of one species may be detrimental to another. Detailed field studies supporting the benefits of corridors are lacking, and most studies investigating the effectiveness of corridors do not prove that a given species or individual animal is exhibiting corridor specific movements. Also, determining the appropriate habitat structure (e.g., vegetative cover, density, and uniformity), width, and position of the corridor relative to habitat patches in the landscape is challenging. Plus, the effects of these landscape features on many groups of organisms are not well known and depend upon the species, their life history, and the degree of landscape fragmentation. Therefore the inception of wildlife corridor management projects is premature and too costly at this stage. It is important to be aware of sensitive plants and animals located within land management boundaries, particularly those prone to isolation or seasonal disruptions because of limited mobility or range restrictions. Harvests that isolate streams, ponds, vernal pools, deer wintering areas, or other sensitive habitats should be avoided. Where connections and corridors already exist on the land, it is advised to keep this habitat intact. If it’s possible, connect two forests with one large block of restored forest; this is preferable to a narrow corridor. 13. Retain mast trees Wildlife habitat is composed of three basic elements, food, water, and shelter. The quality, quantity, distribution, and seasonal availability of these three elements will influence the number of wildlife species that your woodlot can support. Different species of trees in your woodlot will provide wildlife with two of the basic elements: food (mast) and shelter (cavity). Mast trees and shrubs are woody plants that produce seeds, nuts, catkins, soft fruits, or berries. These serve as an important source of food for birds and other wildlife and as a seed source for regeneration in order to maintain stand diversity. In southern Ontario, over 75 species of birds and animals consume soft and hard mast from the various shrubs and trees found in your woodlot. Tree species such as oak, American beech nut — Photo: Robert McCaw Red oak acorns — Photo: Robert McCaw Bur oak mast tree— Photo: Ken Elliott Guidelines for Forest Management and Maintenance of Forest Bird Diversity 73

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