Under Cover: Wildlife of Shrublands and Young Forest
By: Meghan Gilbart, Wildlife Management Institute
The term “early successional habitat” describes the shrubs, trees, and other plants that grow back on the land after older vegetation has been removed or cut back. We can visualize this important habitat type as all the stages of plant growth from open grasslands to young forest. Historically, these habitats were created by natural disturbances, extreme physical conditions such as poor soils or harsh climates, the abandonment of agricultural land, and logging. In recent years, human development has greatly reduced the amount of land available to wildlife, and many of the disturbances that once gave rise to early successional habitat – fire, extensive areas of flooding caused by beavers, and heavy logging – have been suppressed (Trani et al. 2001). As a result, populations of wildlife that need early successional habitat have fallen drastically (Litvaitis, 1993; Thompson & Dessecker, 1997).
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