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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 ...

Beech, maple

Beech, maple forest — Photo: Al Woodliffe Forest Succession — Part 1 Change is constant on the land. Nature has a basic progression of plant and animal communities. As a field matures to a forest, or goes through the process of succession, there are a series of changes in species composition of plant and wildlife communities. Some species prefer young forests, some prefer older forests, and others require different successional stages at various times in their life (see Bird Response to Forest Management Practices pages 50 to 53). Depending on the harvesting techniques used, you will create or maintain different successional stages of forest, which favour different groups of birds. From a songbird perspective, the “best” approach to management may depend on availability of habitat nearby or the sensitivity of species in the area. By retaining a variety of ages and successional stages on the landscape we can ensure a healthy and diverse wildlife community across southern Ontario. Succession is one of the most important concepts in natural resource management. Nature continually changes. Whether you do something or nothing, your land will change over time. It is critical to understand natural changes when using managed systems. Disturbances occur from natural causes such as wind, fire, and pest infestation. Disturbances can also be the result of human activities such as timber harvesting or forest management. These disturbances represent an alteration in the course of succession. With forest management, the manipulation of succession is intentional, and proceeds with a goal in mind. Conifer Plantation Succeeding to Natural Mixed Hardwood Late Successional (Old Growth) Early Successional (Pioneer) 0 time 150+ years Natural Deciduous Forest Succession 0 time 150+ years Artwork: Peter Burke 4 Introduction

Southern Ontario has a landscape typical of many in eastern North America where agriculture and urban land uses dominate. Land survey reports from the late 1700s consistently estimated that forests covered at least 90 percent (%) of southern Ontario, with more than 70 percent of those being upland forests (i.e., sugar maple). By the 1920s, large-scale land clearing by European settlers converted much of the natural landscape to agriculture production, leaving only 10 percent forest cover remaining. Through the 20th century forest cover increased as marginal farmland was abandoned and left to regenerate into secondary forest, or in some cases, replanting with coniferous seedlings occurred to restore forest to the landscape. Currently, forest cover across southern Ontario averages about 25 percent, ranging from five percent in Essex County to 48 percent in eastern Ontario. Today the landscape is a mix of agricultural fields interspersed with scattered remnant woodland patches and urban areas. Not only has forest cover been lost but the structure (age, size, and health of trees) and composition (how many individuals of each species) of the remaining forests has been dramatically altered. Remnant woodlots are much smaller and fragmented (broken into small, isolated patches). Old growth forests that once dominated the landscape have been replaced with second growth forests that due to their young age and management history, lack the diversity and complexity of the pre-settlement landscape. Furthermore, fire suppression efforts have encouraged the spread of some species like red maple at the expense of oak and pine, which in nature are favoured by periodic burning. Woodlot harvesting in combination with a lack of fire, and succession have Early successional habitat — Photo: Peter Burke Introduction 5

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