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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 ...

Blackburnian Warbler —

Blackburnian Warbler — Photo: Daniel Cadieux “There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.” Linda Hogan 82

Male Blue-winged Warbler — Photo: Jeff Nadler Ten Easy Ways to be Careful Land Managers SUMMARY 1. Get professional forest management advice. 2. Use an appropriate, recognized silvicultural system (move beyond diameter-limits; consider group selection). 3. Use a written prescription for harvesting. 4. Retain large and extra large trees (some of which will be low quality/value). 5. Maintain or manage for high levels of structural diversity. 6. Consider leaving uncut areas. 7. Retain old growth and wildlife features: • live cavity trees (10/ha), mast trees (10/ha), snags (5-10/ha) (the bigger the better) • maintain or improve native tree species diversity • protect existing downed wood and add where possible • retain stick nests where they exist • preserve the integrity of wet areas (ephemeral ponds, seeps, streams, etc.) • retain and protect the habitat of species-at-risk 8. Demand careful, high quality logging without damage. 9. Calculate economic benefits over the long term. 10. Enjoy your woodlot! Southern Ontario was once a forest dominated landscape. Today, that forest is broken into many different woodlots of varying sizes and shapes, often isolated from adjacent woodlots. These pieces are owned and maintained by a large number of private landowners and a few public landlords. This creates the backdrop for the fragmented forest ecosystem we see today. Despite these changes on the landscape, on any early morning in late May, in almost any woodlot (5 ha or greater), you only need to listen for a few minutes to become completely overwhelmed by a cacophony of songbirds belonging to 30 or more species. These birds, together with the trees, plants, butterflies, and other life you see, are all recent descendents of what once was nearly continuous forest. Since the time of European settlement (200 years) many of these forests have remained vibrant and productive. This resilience is amazing and reassuring. Appreciating the resilience of these forest ecosystems and recognizing their limitations are likely the two most important philosophical points to consider when preparing to conduct management that will be compatible with the needs of the future forest landscape. Researchers have begun to untangle some of the mysteries associated with changes in forests caused by natural or human disturbances. By studying changes in the composition and density of regeneration on the forest floor, forest scientists can make predictions about what the future forest composition will resemble. By observing the composition of forest birds and calculating the success of their nesting attempts, biologists can determine whether the forest is self-sustaining for a given mix of species. Both types of indicators, tree seedling diversity and bird productivity, provide clues to the direction of future forests. We know that birds and forests are so intimately linked that learning about both has helped to improve our understanding of how the entire forest ecosystem functions. It seems there is a bird for every part of the system, whether it’s treetop nesters, ground dwellers, shrubby open canopy inhabitants, or cavity dependent species. There is a niche for each species, and a story about the forest that can be told by their population health and productivity. Land managers who strive to maintain and enhance the wide range of habitats available on their properties will help maintain biodiversity and the ecological resilience of the entire landscape. Careful management based on sustainable methods has proven to be the most economical in the long run. Managing first to promote structural diversity will provide habitat for a large variety of species. By coupling this with fine scale management plans aimed at individual sensitive species where they exist, landowners will promote healthy forest ecosystems across the landscape. By getting to know your woodlot and its inhabitants, managers can make decisions that do not preclude harvesting for economic gain, but further improve or maintain conditions for birds and all biodiversity. These types of diverse forests are more resistant to insects and disease, and have a greater buffering capacity against other stresses such as climate change. Where possible, efforts should be made to improve forested habitat through reforestation, invasive species removal, and rehabilitation of degraded woodlands. Landowners, land managers, foresters, tree markers and loggers are key players in ensuring we have vibrant and healthy woodlands that can persist and sustain themselves into the future. No parks system, conservation organization, tree planting program, or government agency alone or in combination will maintain the trees, plants, wildlife, insects, fungi and water quality of this diverse landscape. With 90 percent of southern Ontario woodlands in private ownership, it is your decisions as landowners, that will determine the future of our biodiversity and natural resources. Photo: Teresa Piraino Summary 83

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