Managing Habitat for Wildlife
The fundamental requirements that must be considered when managing wildlife habitat include food, cover, water, and the proper distribution of these elements. Habitat management must be directed at maintaining a productive and healthy ecosystem. The ecosystem consists of the plant and animal communities found in an area along with soil, air, water and sunlight. All management activities should be aimed at conserving and improving the quantity and quality of soils, water and vegetation. There is no substitute for good habitat.
First and foremost, managing for plant diversity on a property is essential. A diverse habitat site will have a good mixture of various species of grasses, forbs and browse plants. Many of these plants will be at various stages of growth, which adds another element of diversity. The diversity of vegetation increases the availability of food and cover for wildlife species. This in turn, keeps natural foods abundant and means wildlife remain or return to the property to reproduce, forage and live.
Diversity is Fundamental for Habitat, Wildlife
A greater diversity of range plants results in more food being made available during different periods of the year. The volume and diversity of plants protects the soil from erosion. Also, the decomposition of vegetation helps restore needed minerals to the soil to sustain plant life. An abundance of vegetation improves the water cycle by trapping water from rains, thereby preventing excessive runoff which leads to the erosion of soils and flooding of streams.
An ecologically-based habitat management program will serve to improve the plant community of your property by increasing vegetation quantity, quality and diversity. This improvement in the plant community will not only conserve and enhance the soil, but improve the water cycle as well. A greater diversity of all forms of life, including microorganisms, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals is achieved under a sound wildlife management plan. The long term health of the land is improved and conserved for future generations to utilize as a source of income, recreation and for aesthetic enjoyment.
Top-End Habitat on Grasslands
The climax herbaceous vegetation community of most grasslands is dominated by grasses with a low percentage of forbs. While this may be suitable for livestock and for a few species of “grassland” wildlife, many wildlife species are more dependent on the seeds and foliage of forbs (commonly called “weeds”) than on grasses. Plant communities with a diverse array of “weedy” plant species are more productive than a community dominated by perennial grasses.
The concept of wildlife management involves implementing habitat enhancement practices to create plant diversity. Periodic management practices such as fire, soil disturbance, livestock grazing, and mowing can set back plant succession and maintain a diverse plant community. These are the fundamental tools that can be used to make your property better for native plants and animals.