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Enhancing Forest Habitat


Whether you plan to regularly harvest your forest or allow it to grow naturally, there are specific practices that will enhance the forest habitat for the benefit of a variety of wildlife. Ensuring that adequate food, water and shelter are available will enable your woodlot to support a diversity of wildlife species.

Wildlife-friendly practices may include:

  • controlling invasive species
  • leaving some standing dead trees
  • leaving dead fallen trees, coarse woody debris and brush piles on the forest floor as escape cover for wildlife
  • creating a line of trees or a hedgerow as a wildlife corridor between forest patches
  • planting trees and shrubs that will provide food for wildlife and add to the diversity of the woodlot

These and many other best practices are described in the links following.

 Wildlife Trees is an article published by the Ottawa Field Naturalists which explains the importance of standing dead trees or snags and fallen logs.

Planting trees and shrubs can provide food and cover for wildlife. The Kingston Field Naturalists and the OWA provide advice and guidance for planting.

Cavity Trees are Refuges for Wildlife is an extension note published by the MNRF describes how more than 50 species of birds and mammals depend on the cavities in dead or dying trees. If you harvest your woodlot, this information sheet provides guidelines to help you choose which cavity trees are the most valuable to wildlife. Another excellent article on this topic is published by the Ontario Woodlot Association (OWA).

Managing Mast Trees for Your Woodlot: The OWA provides a good summary of the reasons why mast trees are so important to wildlife.

Do You Have a Healthy Woodlot: This extension note provides information on assessing and improving the health of your woodlot, including the health of the wildlife which making their habitat there.

Controlling Invasive Woodland Plants is a landowner’s guide published by the OWA which will help you learn to identify invasive woodland plants and remove them.

A Landowner’s Guide to Careful Logging, published by the OWA, explains how to avoid sensitive habitat features, such as protecting stream crossings, rare plants, establishing buffer zones along stream banks, etc. during the logging process.

Conserving the Forest Interior: A Threatened Wildlife Habitat is an Extension Note which introduces you to the forest interior and the wildlife species that depend on this threatened habitat. It provides ideas on how you can protect and improve forest interior conditions.

How Much Habitat is Enough is a paper produced by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS). It is a framework for the Great Lakes region to provide guidance for preserving wildlife habitat. These guidelines will help landowners understand the importance of their woodlots within the larger landscape. It also provides guidance for the amount of habitat features such as forest and wetlands needed to ensure a healthy naturally functioning landscape. Perhaps you’ll discover that your woodlot is an important wildlife corridor or has one of very few remaining dense forest interiors in your region.

Burning Responsibly: Burning materials such as plastics in a burn barrel, fire pit, fireplace or wood stove, emits a host of pollutants into our air. What goes up, must come down, often in your own back yard exposing you’re your children, pets and livestock to these dangerous chemicals. These pollutants don’t just contaminate our air; they also end up in our lakes. This tip sheet provides some alternatives to outdoor burning and explains which things should never be burned.

Restoring Old Growth Characteristics will provide habitat for numerous birds and mammals that prefer old-growth habitat. We have created a separate webpage with links to information about old-growth restoration.

Very few forests exist in southern Ontario which have never been impacted by humans. Unfortunately, they were long gone before we realized how important they were for maintaining a high level of biodiversity. Old growth forest structure supports so many different species of plants and animals.

Over time however, we can create old growth characteristics in our forests by active or by passive management. If you’re fortunate enough to have bought a property with some 100-year-old trees already, then you’re halfway there. Passive management means allowing nature to take its course which is, of course, extremely slow. Careful active management could accelerate the process. Different approaches may work best for different parts of your property, but long-term planning is essential no matter what your approach.

Visit the following websites to learn how best to restore old growth characteristics on your land.

  • The Old-Growth Forests of Southern Ontario: This extension note from OMNR provides information on the characteristics of old-growth forests and the many species that depend on these features for survival. This information provides good guidance if you want your woodlot to eventually have old-growth characteristics.
  • Restoring Old Growth Features to Forests in Southern Ontario is an extension note which provides information on ways of restoring the diversity and increasing the number of old growth features in managed forests, while maintaining their ability to provide timber, fuelwood, maple syrup, nuts and places for recreation.
  • Restoring Old Growth Characteristics is published by the University of Massachusetts. This excellent 11-page booklet explains the active and passive approaches very well and will help you begin your long-term planning.

This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada. | Ce projet a été réalisé avec l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada.

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