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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 ...

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Photo: Ken Elliott layer. Natural disturbances such as fire or storms that kill all older trees at once create even-aged stands. Clear cutting and plantations in open fields also create even-aged stands. Pure aspen or red pine plantations are the best examples of evenaged stands. In uneven-aged stands, trees of various ages and sizes grow together. The structure of uneven-aged stands consists of at least three tree layers—overstorey layer, intermediate layer, and understorey layer (often from three or more age classes). An example of this is a sugar maple dominated stand with various combinations of sugar maple, beech, yellow birch, and hemlock represented in the overstorey and as seedlings, saplings, and larger intermediate trees. 6. Wildlife: Review the information you have collected on wildlife. It is important to maintain a healthy forest after harvesting that includes wildlife habitat. As managers often use habitat diversity as a substitute for wildlife diversity, they must ensure high stand structural-complexity and maintenance of critical features. By maintaining a diversity of structural elements, these forests will support a diverse array of plant and animal life across a diversity of habitat needs. Options for maintaining wildlife habitat include: leaving a number of cavity and snag trees; leaving decaying wood on the ground; retaining quality mast trees, and protecting riparian zones and wetlands. 7. Economics: After identifying the best silviculture system for your objectives and getting an estimate of your expected product volumes, evaluate your potential markets and expected prices (Consult A Landowners Guide to Selling Standing Timber: http://www.ontariowoodlot.com/). Based on these estimates and expected changes in the market you may choose to wait for improvement in the markets before harvesting. Once you decide that it is time to harvest, take your time, and select a reputable company. Get at least three quotes along with references, and visit other harvest operations performed by the companies you are interested in contracting. Damaged woodlots can take years to recover. (Consult A Landowners Guide to Careful Logging http://www.ontariowoodlot.com/) 8. Time (season): Harvesting at the wrong time of the year might create problems such as damage to roads, soil compaction, erosion, fire hazards, and disturbing wildlife during critical times in their life cycles. To avoid these Assessing the Health, Vigour, and Quality of Your Woodlot A healthy woodlot provides habitat for a wide range of forest species in forest drives what you can accomplish with your woodlot. It can take time perpetuity. The health, vigour, and quality of your woodlot will depend on and energy to develop a healthy woodlot, particularly where the site a variety of features including soil type, topography, climate, history of the conditions (soil, climate, topography) are poor at producing high quality, woodlot, the tree-species composition, age classes, density across fast growing trees, or previous management practices have different tree sizes, forest type, understorey vegetation, and growth rate predominantly left trees of poor quality, low vigour, or poor genetics. An of tree species. The current condition of the trees that make up your assessment of your woodlot by an expert on tree health (professional forester or certified tree marker) will determine the balance of healthy and poor quality trees, providing you with information on the potential of your stand to grow and produce high quality wood products, while still considering wildlife habitat. While assessing the trees and overall woodlot health, experts will look for evidence of internal rot or diseases (such a cracks, scars, wounds, or mushrooms on the stems of the trees), deformities (crooked, bent or broken trunks), evidence of invasive species, low diversity of wildlife, plant life, or habitat structures. Trees with no defects, tall straight trunks, smooth bark, and full crowns are a clear sign of good quality trees. Armed with the knowledge of the state of health of your forest you can set realistic goals. Current management activities may need to be focused on stand improvement before you are ready to move ahead with long-term habitat and wood production objectives. Keep in mind, however, that maintaining the full range of birds and other wildlife species requires a small supply of declining, dead, and downed trees to be retained. Photo: Robert McCaw 78 Where to Begin

hazards, harvest during winter on frozen ground, particularly on wet or low-lying sites, or during extended dry periods that (may) occur during late summer and early fall. 9. Roads, skid trails and landings: Efficient forest management, woodlot enjoyment, and the protection of soil, water, wildlife, and long term growth requires a logical system of roads, trails, and landings. Careful planning, construction, and maintenance puts them in the right place at the right time of the year and avoids wet and other sensitive sites. Since the compaction and disturbance associated with heavy equipment degrades these areas, the idea is to design a system that minimizes the area covered and is re-used over the long term. 10. Subtle changes for biodiversity: Consider the recommendations in this guide (see Ten Easy Ways to be Careful Land Managers page 83). Many of Ontario’s landowners are leading the way in conserving high value natural areas. Some of the changes we are suggesting require only minor adjustments to what you may have practiced for years. Once the greater majority of woodlot managers invoke these changes, the forests of southern Ontario will be more diverse, more resilient, and more productive in the end. Habitat Management Considerations Individual landowners face a seemingly overwhelming task of managing the full range of biodiversity present on their property. A diverse forest requires a diversity of habitats because the habitat needs (food, water, shelter, and territory) of every species is slightly different from others. It is not possible to maintain all elements of biodiversity in all places, at all times, on any single piece of land. Forest managers need to consider the most effective way to provide biodiversity on a site-specific basis. Timber management in the 1980s in Ontario focused on integrating the habitat needs of featured wildlife species such as hunted species or species at risk. In the 1990s, management philosophy shifted toward ecosystem management and the maintenance of biodiversity and habitat for all wildlife. Meeting the needs of all species requiring hardwood forests in southern Ontario are difficult given the large number of species and the variety of requirements. You can maintain the habitat needs of all wildlife at a large, landscape level by combining a coarse filter and fine filter approach to management. One of the key underlying assumptions about biodiversity management is that you are more likely to maintain native species and ecological processes if you manage your forest to resemble forests created by natural disturbances such as fire, wind, insects, and disease. The coarse filter approach focuses on maintaining habitat diversity across the landscape through time. It provides a broad range of habitats for a broad range of species. Under this approach, we can maintain biodiversity in managed forests by maintaining habitat patterns and successional stages that are similar to those present naturally. The closer management resembles natural disturbances, the lower the risk of losing natural biodiversity. By providing a full range of structures, habitats, sizes, and ages representative of a particular ecosystem the needs of most organisms are fulfilled. You can meet the habitat needs of most species if you are able to provide a full range of structure, habitat sizes, and ages at all times. However, managing for critical habitats for key species using the fine filter approach can be necessary for species whose habitat requirements are not fully met in the coarse filter approach. The fine filter approach focuses on single species management, by providing habitat for individual rare or specialized species of concern. At the stand scale, silviculture prescriptions can be modified to protect or enhance habitat suitability for individual species (i.e., maintain snags with cavities in forested swamps for Prothonotary Warbler or retain stick nests for raptors). However, developing a biodiversity strategy based on a variety of management strategies for individual species is neither feasible nor effective since the detailed habitat needs of many species are still unknown. As a baseline, land managers should strive to maintain a diversity of habitats and habitat features as a stand-in for biological diversity. The “if you build it they will come” approach should work, as species tend to be associated with the structural attributes of a seral (successional) stage, rather than with the actual stand age itself. Species have requirements for survival that are tightly connected to their habitats, and degradation or loss of habitat is often the primary threat to species survival. Efforts should be made to leave important biological legacies of structures and features like standing dead and dying trees, downed wood, forest floor organic material, cavities, logs, snags, pools, and hedgerows. Given the high degree of ecological variability in our forests and the multiple resource objectives that managers juggle, they need to be flexible and creative. By considering both a coarse and fine filter approach to management, conservation of all species across southern Ontario is possible. Eastern Screech Owl — Photo: Al Woodliffe Where to Begin 79

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