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Recent assessments of afforestation of agricultural lands in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley imply the importance of quickly developing vertical forest structure to benefit 'wildlife.' We examine this assumption and find that animal species of interest as targets of proactive management, as well as targets of control, occur through the full successional sere. Different species of mammals and birds respond positively to the structure available at different times during succession. Thus, managers must decide on the species and communities they wish to favor. Early successional species, particularly those avian communities occurring during winter, have been heretofore 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. Managers may wish to consider maintaining large tracts in herbaceous vegetation similar to that occurring 3-7 years after cessation of farming activities, as habitat for such birds.
Additional Publication Details
Forest restoration as ecological succession: should we speed it up or slow it down?