Biological Inventory Resources for the
You’d like to increase your awareness of your forest’s
biodiversity. You’d like to steward your land to conserve or
enhance that biodiversity. But how do you go about it? You have many
choices, requiring varying amounts of time, energy, and financial
commitment. Below, we outline these options and offer resource suggestions
and links that may be helpful in learning more about your forest community.
Remember, whether you decide to hire an ecologist for a professional
inventory, opt to bring your guidebooks into the woods to begin your
own studies, or combine the two approaches, what matters most is that
you are learning more about the natural communities in which you live
and will be better informed to make ecologically sound management
decisions as a result.
Layers of Information on Forest Biodiversity
Forest Management Plans
Use Value (Current
Use) Program: Many forest landowners opt to enroll their
land in Vermont’s Use Value Assessment Program, to ease
their property tax burden. To qualify for this program, they need
to have a current management plan for their enrolled forests.
Such management plans vary greatly in content, but all, because
of the Use Value Program’s focus on timber extraction, primarily
provide information on the forest’s timber value and management
for timber products. Such a plan will usually provide you with
information about the species mix of trees in your forest, but
may not give much additional information about your forest’s
VFF Certified Management Plan: Landowners
who choose to enroll their forests in VFF’s third-party green
certification program develop, usually with the help of a consulting
forester, a management plan that provides important biodiversity
information and prescribes management that maintains or enhances
native biological diversity, in addition to protecting water quality
and conserving site productivity. All VFF certified management plans
include the following biodiversity information:
- Natural Communities mapping
- Native Flora and Fauna Habitat
- number and size of snags and down logs. These provide critical
habitat for many animal species
- status of invasive exotic species
- grazing pressures
- evidence of wildlife use
- Access Road condition
- Forest Health
Whether or not you plan to certify
your forestland, preparing a forest management plan that follows
VFF's management plan template
will provide excellent baseline data and help ensure that your
management practices protect native biological diversity. VFF
maintains a list
of resource managers (pdf file; 73kb) familiar with VFF mapping
and planning standards who can help you pursue natural communities
mapping, ecological surveys, and certified management plans.
Conducting further flora/fauna inventories
Hiring Natural Resources Professionals:
Perhaps you’d like to conduct a Rapid
Ecological Assessment. Such an assessment will provide you with
a tremendous amount of baseline data about your forest. Take a look
at the REA reports generated by
a team of 3 CHEP scientists in 2003 for an idea of the kinds of
information an REA provides. Marc Lapin, CHEP project manager and
head of the REA team that inventoried Lincoln’s Colby Hill
Town Forest, can help direct you toward natural resource professionals
to fit your needs.
Doing it Yourself: There’s nothing
more empowering or rewarding than getting out into your forest and
beginning to record your forest’s biodiversity on your own.
- Plants: Get to know the natural communities
in your forest. As mentioned above, consider having a natural
communities map prepared when you develop a management plan
for your forest. Use the excellent guidebook Wetland, Woodland,
Wildland, by Elizabeth Thompson and Eric Sorenson, to aid
your exploration. Become acquainted with the plants that inhabit
your woods. There are hundreds of plant species, so narrow your
study to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Trees and wildflowers are
a great place to start. Refer
to Eric Sorenson’s list of plant reference books for
recommended field guides.
- Birds: Start a bird list—if you need
help identifying birds, contact your local Audubon chapter and
request a volunteer to give you a hand. The Cornell Laboratory
of Ornithology hosts an excellent website,
All About Birds, which offers audio recordings and in-depth
descriptions of hundreds of bird species. VFF is developing
a lending library of Ecological Forestry Tools, and in it, we
have the audio CDs Birding By Ear and More Birding
By Ear, by Richard K. Walton and Robert W. Lawson. Stop
by and borrow it!
- Reptiles and Amphibians: Chances are, if
you carefully turn over a log in your forest, or a rock in a
seepy area, you’ll meet one of Vermont’s resident
salamander species. Start a list of the reptiles and amphibians
that inhabit your forest. Herpetologist Jim Andrews, of Middlebury
College, has created the Reptiles
and Amphibians Atlas of Vermont, and maintains a website for
the Atlas that is chock-full of useful information and links
on reptiles and amphibians that will get you started. He is
always looking for more field data for the atlas and would welcome
The PDF files below may be helpful
in your investigations:
Learn how to identify and interpret the many signs that
mammals leave during their daily excursions in the forest.
Bark rubbings, claw marks, den sites, scat, paw prints,
and foraging debris all offer clues as to the identity and
habits of forest inhabitants. Paul Rezendes’ excellent
book, listed below, will get you started. For identifying
animal tracks, bring a copy of Lynn Levine and Martha Mitchell’s
guide, listed below, into the woods with you.
Trapping of small mammals can only be performed by a licensed
mammalogist or his/her students. Contact the biology department
of your local university or college. If there is a mammalogist
on the faculty, they may have students who could help you
conduct such a study. Mammalogist Jan
Decher, who performs CHEP’s small mammal surveys,
has created a Mammal
Diversity Assessment publication that will help you
The Minnesota Department
of Natural Resources has an excellent website that covers aquatic
and terrestrial invasive plants, offering tips on how to recognize
and control them. http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/index.html.
Other helpful resources:
Champlain Valley Clayplain Forest: Natural
History and Stewardship. Produced by the Champlain Valley Clayplain
Project. Marc Lapin, Coordinator.
Champlain Valley Clayplain Forest Restoration.
Produced by Middlebury College Environmental Studies Senior Seminar,
Tracking and the Art of Seeing, by
Paul Rezendes. Camden House, 1992.
Mammal Tracks, by Lynn Levine and Martha
Mitchell. Heartwood Press, 2001.
Reading the Forested Landscape, by
Tom Wessels. Countryman Press, 1997.
New England Wildlife: Habitat, Natural History,
and Distribution, by Richard M. DeGraaf and Mariko Yamasaki.
University Press of New England, 2001.