Bird use of reforestation sites: Influence of location and vertical structure

Technical Note 190-34
By:  and 



In the Lower Mississippi Valley, more than 300,000 acres of agricultural land have been reforested in the last 10 years. Planning decisions on how and where to restore forest are complex and usually reflect landowner objectives. However, initial planning decisions may have a large influence on the value of restored stands for birds and other wildlife.

Reforestation of small, isolated tracts will likely result in mature forests where reproductive output of breeding birds does not compensate for adult mortality (sink habitats). This may be due to factors such as lower reproductive success near edges (edge effects), insufficient area of habitat to attract colonizing birds (area effects), or restricted population mixing and mating opportunities because of limited dispersal among tracts (isolation effects).

Conversely, reforestation adjacent to existing forest increases contiguous forest area and provides areas buffered from agricultural or urban habitats (interior forest core).

Bottomland reforestation has historically focused on planting relatively slow-growing tree species, particularly oaks (Quercus spp.). Thus, restoration sites are often dominated by grasses and forbs for up to a decade after tree planting. Grassland birds are the first birds to colonize reforested sites. However, abundance and productivity of grassland birds is generally poor on sites associated with woody vegetation, such as sites adjacent to mature forest.

As woody vegetation develops on reforested sites, birds preferring shrub-scrub habitat displace grassland species (Twedt et al. 2002) (fig. 1). Planting faster-growing trees compresses the time for colonization by shrub-scrub birds and the increased vertical stature of these trees attracts forest birds (Twedt and Portwood 1996). Additionally, planting next to existing mature forests creates transitional edges that reduce the detrimental effects of abrupt forest-agriculture interfaces.

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Title Bird use of reforestation sites: Influence of location and vertical structure
Series title Technical Note
Series number 190-34
Year Published 2005
Language English
Publisher U.S. Department of Agriculture
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 5 p.
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