Winter bird communities in afforestation: Should we speed up or slow down ecological succession?This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Recent assessments of afforestation on agricultural lands in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley imply the importance of quickly developing vertical forest structure to benefit wildlife. Examining this assumption, we find that mammals and birds occur through the full successional sere as targets of proactive management and control. Different species of animals thrive in structures available at different times during succession. Thus, forest managers’ choices of strategies favor species’ success differentially. Early successional species, particularly those avian communities occurring during winter, have heretofore been considered only in passing. However, because they occur in areas where herbaceous plants dominate vegetation structure, these communities include species otherwise rare or absent from the landscape. Extensive afforestation in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley provides ephemeral habitat for birds that winter in herbaceous areas. To provide habitat for winter birds, managers may wish to consider maintaining large tracts in herbaceous vegetation similar to that occurring 3 to 7 years after cessation of farming activities.