Conserve Ontario's Carolinian Forests: preserve songbird species at risk, chapter 7

Improving and Enhancing Forest Habitat

Stand Improvement

Many southern Ontario forests have experienced degradation through poor management, overharvesting, or other activities. Such forests are characterized by poor structural diversity, lack of mature forest elements, few trees of good health and vigour, prevalence of fungal diseases, and/or limited regeneration of good quality seedlings. While rehabilitation plans should be developed in response to specific stand challenges, they should generally focus on the identification and retention of desirable trees, coupled with targeted thinning to improve growth and regeneration. 

Additionally, identify and consider protecting special habitat features. For example, retaining some cavity trees and snags (dead standing trees) provides habitat for a large variety of forest birds, species at risk, and other wildlife species.

Enlarge and Reconnect Existing Forest

The amount of forest interior habitat can be increased, sometimes significantly, by reforesting fields and other large openings within woodlands, restoring marginal farmland around forest edges, and reconnecting isolated / fragmented forests. Strategic reforestation can have important, lasting ecological benefits for area-sensitive and forest-interior species. The exception is reforesting land that is, or may have been historically naturally open, such as prairies and savannahs, or old fields and other open features that are providing beneficial habitat for other wildlife.

Protect Valleylands and Swamps

Forests bordering streams and ravines provide important habitat for Acadian Flycatchers, Louisiana Waterthrushes, and other forest birds, particularly in regions where little other forest cover exists. Protect ravine forests from erosion and disruption by leaving at least a 10 metre buffer of trees along the top of the ravine slope. Degraded slopes and valleys can be restored by natural or planned regeneration.

It is best to avoid harvesting timber from ravines and stream banks because subsequent erosion may diminish stream water quality.

Swamps provide important habitat for species such as Acadian Flycatcher and Prothonotary Warbler, and more common species such as Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) and Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis). Swamps and other wetlands also protect the quality and quantity of water supplies. Preserving wetlands provides environmental benefits for humans, birds and other wildlife.

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