New research shows that the highest wildlife use of forestland-in terms of total numbers of wildlife, as well as species diversity-occurs in the cutover and seedling stage. A study conducted by Champion International and Stephen F. Austin State University examined wildlife use among cutover/seedling, sapling, pole and sawtimber successional stages.
In the cutover/seedling stage, the low-growing herbaceous vegetation, forbs, seeds, vines and other plant life provide food and cover for rabbits, deer, turkeys and many avian species. In the sapling stage, brush and vines provide a thicket that species such as rabbit, deer and certain birds prefer. At the pole stage, a variety of birds and amphibians can be found using the stand.
The mature forest attracts squirrels and birds that prefer the tops of the canopy trees. During this stage, periodic thinning essentially mimics the natural loss of pines. As the understory is opened to sunlight and vegetation growth begins again, many of the species attracted in the cutover/seedling stage, such as deer and turkeys, return.
A key finding from the study is that all successional stages of a forest are used by wildlife, although some species prefer certain stages more than others. For example, the cutover/ seedling stage is essential for many, particularly raptors (hawks and owls), who prey on mice and small mammals that inhabit the open areas.
The study notes, that clearcutting mimics natural occurrences that initiate forest succession, like tornadoes or wildfires. As such, clearcutting is an essential tool to maintain and enhance wildlife populations, while allowing us to meet our growing demands for timber and fiber.
Reprint from BASF website.
Provided by: Timber Marketing & Management of the Carolinas, Inc.