Interior Forests: More Important Than You Realize
Natural forests play a large role in maintaining the natural beauty found within Muskoka. We know they convert CO2 into useable oxygen for us to breathe, filter surface and groundwater, provide habitat for different species of wildlife, and provide us with a quiet place to return to nature.
This being said, it’s important for us to understand what an interior forest is, the effect that an “edge” has on the surrounding wildlife, the role they play here in Muskoka, and what you can do to monitor them yourself.
To start, an interior forest is essentially a forest within a forest, with a large buffer from any man-made structure or open natural areas. These may include roads, development, utility corridors, wetlands, rock barrens, etc.
These forests provide unique nesting sites, preferred food, and an additional level of protection from outside sources. They are favored by many different species of plants and animals as they are secluded and less vulnerable. Biodiversity is also typically greater in these locations.
As development, agriculture, and logging continue, more interior forests are becoming fragmented. Imagine a two lane road in the middle of the forest; would you feel more vulnerable standing in the middle of a forest or standing beside a road? It’s the same idea for the wildlife that reside in these locations.
Though a forest edge is still a productive and preferred environment for many species, it is more susceptible to disturbance, predation, and other environmental factors which can affect feeding, nesting, and breeding for different species.
Many of you may be familiar with the Muskoka Watershed Report Card, released by the Muskoka Watershed Council in May. It outlines a number of indicators of watershed health, including the amount of interior forest. Keeping in mind the benefits and biodiversity that forests provide, a watershed is considered not stressed if more than 50% of it consists of interior forest, vulnerable if it is between 20% and 50%, and stressed if less than 20% of the watershed is interior forest. Check out the health of your watershed at www.muskokawatershed.org/stewardshipworks.
Terrestrial monitoring plots are an interactive way to understand the health and biodiversity of a forest. Within these plots, a number of conditions can be monitored, including tree health, growth rates, decay rates, salamander nesting, and frog habitat. Even better, the Biomonitoring Technician for The District Municipality of Muskoka will come and help you set up a plot.
If you are interested in setting up a terrestrial monitoring plot on your property, please contact Dylan Moesker by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 705-645-2100 ext. 332.
Article by Dylan Moesker