e_moon60 (e_moon60) wrote,

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Habitats, Etc.

We all live in habitats, and all our habitats are subdivided into microhabitats.   Wildlife are the same.  For most of them, they utilize a variety of microhabitats in the range of their overall habitat...a hispid cotton rat may live in grassland, but it chooses particular parts of that grassland for its burrow, its traveling trails, its food supply, its water supply.  Animals  that appear to share the same place may actually be recognizing different habitats--as people living in the same city may use and experience its offerings very differently (do you go to bars or museums--or both?  Do you go to classical choral concerts or rock concerts?)  A block of woods that looks like any other woods to the human passing by may offer unique habitat to one bird, and discourage another.

Habitat includes not only space but resources in that space--food, water, places to rest, to hide, to breed, to raise offspring.   We are lucky in that our otherwise "plain" 80 acres offers three distinctly different habitat types (riparian woods, upland brush/woods, and grassland) and many microhabitats within each of these.   These habitats each attract a unique mix of species, and changes in the proportion of woods to grass or brush to woods will affect what we see--what wildlife we 'manage'.  That's why "habitat management" is an important part of wildlife management.   The  choices we make--not only how many acres of grass, but which grasses, how thick, and what forbs we encourage/discourage with the grasses--will determine  what can live there.  The choices our neighbors and sociey make (whether to subdivide neighboring property, whether to use it for pasture or cultivated crops, stocking rate, whether to build a road next to our fence, etc.) all affect what we can do...how easy or hard it will be to maintain a healthy mix on our land.  On big properties--thousands of acres--the "neighbor effect" is smaller but still important...upstream neighbors are more critical because their management of the water there determines what happens to your creeks, seeps, springs, and the amount and kind of runoff you get.

My ecology prof said that water management was the key to land management, and the rules of water management were simple to state.   "Keep the rain that falls on your land on your land.   Slow the water down: if water runs off your land at all, it should be cleaner than when it started.  This is true whether it's your runoff or runs onto your land from somewhere else.  Ideally, all run off would be clear--no sediment.  If you manage the water, the land will take care of itself." 

We've been working toward that for six years now.  Building check dams and gabions to slow surface runoff, planting and otherwise encouraging vegetation (which resists erosion and also filters runoff, building soil rather than taking it away.)   Areas that were bare six years ago are now covered with vegetation, and more of the vegetation is native.  Most surface  runoff is clear (and there's less of it.)  Here's one result:

  The rock checkdam (lleft side of picture) controls headward erosion of the natural drainage channel...which used to be a bare, eroding scrape for about a quarter mile.  The area around it, alternately bone dry and boggy, supported only low-quality forbs that could not resist erosion.  Now it's mostly grass and water stays in little pools to support wildlife and keep the soil moister between wet seasons.  Except in floods, when dirty water pours off the highway (behind the camera) the water is clear.  Yesterday, it had damselflies and dragonflies over it, and various aquatic insects in it.   In the distance is the rocky lump with the "dry woods" (brush and trees in clumps, grass and forbs between them.)

Tags: habitat management, restoration, water quality
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