Why Trees Matter: Wildlife Habitat Protection

Thu, March 19, 2015 2:43 PM | Danielle Corral

For this week’s Why Trees Matter topic we will look at the wildlife habitat protection that trees provide and how this affects ecosystems.

If climate change--particularly the earth’s warming--and deforestation trends continue, nearly one million species will become endangered in the next 50 years. Forests shelter over two-thirds of Earth’s land-based animals, including the largest portion of threatened species. Wildlife relies on trees for survival. Forests supply food, housing, migration and breeding resting spots, and a safe and natural habitat for wildlife. The symbiotic relationship between wildlife and forests plays a crucial role in ecosystems. For example, bees work as pollinators, birds become seed dispersers, and bears are food-chain regulators while their waste serves as natural forest fertilizer. Forest wildlife is nature’s ecosystem engineers and maintenance workers.

Trees, themselves, are also important ecosystem regulators.  As part of the tree life-cycle (refer to the right diagram), a mature tree provide fruits, nuts, and seeds for wildlife and a percentage of tree seeds will grow to form new trees. In a properly functioning ecosystem, dead and decaying trees serve as nests, nurseries, and housing for animals and preserve moisture and nutrients that help with new plant growth and soil organisms. Trees heavily regulate the type and amount of wildlife in an area. By providing a livable environment for a species, trees largely determine their survival.

Restoring forests is an important step in maintaining wildlife. Projects like Forests for Fifty is an example of an organization aimed at planting trees in all 50 states to restore damaged forests ecosystem and to support urban forests (the trees and other natural resources within an urban area). Planting and caring for trees not only protects wildlife habitat, but it also reduces the possibility of having to say goodbye to a million unique species of our forest community.

References:

http://www.americanforests.org/conservation-programs/forests-and-wildlife-habitat/

http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/about_forests/

ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/012/i0842e/i0842e04.pdf 

http://www.endangeredspeciesinternational.org/birds4.html

http://www.predatordefense.org/docs/ecological_role_species.pdf

http://www.encountersnorth.org/wildexplorer/salmon/forest-and-sea-salmon.html

http://www.nwf.org/Trees-for-Wildlife/Benefits-for-Wildlife.aspx (diagram)

http://urbanext.illinois.edu/ecosystems/teacherguide2.cfm

http://www.americanforests.org/our-programs/global-releaf-projects/forests-for-fifty/

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