Over one third of the land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is either covered by development or agriculture. This poses obstacles to water quality in the form of nutrients, sediments, and other pollutants, but also to terrestrial wildlife that have little or no habitat in these settings. Trees planted along city streets and in suburban backyards may feel like a sort of coexistence with nature, but in reality these manicured settings provide habitat for very few native species.
Farmland can also be deceptively “natural”; despite expansive hayfields and lush row crops, there are few places for wildlife to nest, raise young, or eat. Waist-high hay and six-foot-tall corn are eventually cut, leaving no cover for all but the smallest animals. Luckily, both water quality and wildlife habitat issues can be addressed with one management practice: establishing forest cover alongside streams and other water bodies.
Healthy streams and watersheds rely on functional riparian forest corridors. A streamside forest will trap and filter nutrients and sediment from the uplands that would otherwise flow into the stream. The overhanging tree canopy will cool down the water to make it suitable for trout and other native aquatic fauna.
They can also be important for terrestrial wildlife, especially in landscapes dominated by agriculture or development. Stream corridors composed of trees, dense shrubs/saplings, and native herbaceous vegetation provide breeding, foraging, and escape cover for an array of upland and lowland wildlife species that would otherwise have little to eat and no shelter from predators or the elements.
Establishing a streamside forest can be challenging as weather, deer, small mammals, and invasive plants all make tree survival and growth difficult. To learn more, come join the Rothrock Chapter of the Society of American Foresters as they host a summer field tour focused on riparian buffer establishment. The field session will take place on Thursday, June 22, 2017 from 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM along Muddy Creek just south of Spring Mills in Georges Valley, Centre County. The tour will access Muddy Creek off Harter Road.
The afternoon will be spent visiting research sites along Muddy Creek to view riparian buffer establishment projects. Attendees will learn about tree establishment using bare root and container grown seedlings as well as live stakes and direct seeding. In addition, site preparation, weed suppression, invasive plant control, maintenance, and deer exclusion/protection will be covered in detail.
Pre-registration for the field tour is required. The field tour is provided free of charge. However, to better plan for attendance we are asking everyone to please pre-register by contacting the Penn State Extension office in Centre County by phone at: (814) 355-4897 or email CentreExt@psu.edu. Please register by Monday, June 19, 2017. Be sure to provide your contact information in case we have to get in touch with you.