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Analysis of the Value of Regenerating Woodlands for Biodiversity
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UNH's college woods contain a variety of woodland habitats at various stages of maturity, from mature native woodland to recently clear-cut areas with no vegetation. This variety of habitats provides an opportunity to study the value of habitat type and quality to resident organisms within a small study area where other environmental variables such as local climate, weather, relief, and soil type are largely consistent. We undertook a study over a 5-week period to quantify new plant growth and bird numbers in an area of mature woodland and adjacent clearcut (following the removal of diseased trees), to investigate how these extremes of habitat quality would affect the diversity of plant and birdlife. We found that despite having much higher light levels at the soil surface, new plant growth was depressed in the open area vs established woodland. Conversely, birds were observed more frequently in the open, clear-cut area. The lower-quality habitat being attractive to birds is a surprising result and may reflect birds using the area for easier visual foraging or communication/mating behavior. It may also be that bird behavior in nesting or roosting areas in woodland is more cryptic, to reduce predation or competition risk. Overall, our results point to higher trophic levels generally being adaptable to disturbances in woodland environments; conducting species-level observations over a longer period may elucidate more specific habitat preferences following perturbations. We also saw that vegetation may take multiple years to reseed and recover following destructive clearing, likely with a succession of vegetation types as plant diversity increases over time.
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Event Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (ISE)
Department Innovation Scholars (ISE)
Added April 19, 2022, 10 a.m.
Updated April 19, 2022, 10:01 a.m.
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