Tree Planting Benefits Wildlife and the Environment
Historically, Prairie landowners planted trees around their farmyards to conserve energy, and across their fields to help conserve soil and water. Today, a growing number of landowners are making efforts to conserve another natural resource: wildlife.
Settlement of the Great Plains was built on the conversion of vast natural areas to cultivation, a practice that dramatically reduced much of Western Canada's wildlife habitat - and a practice that continues today. Every bush pushed and every slough drained is a loss of critical sources of food and cover for our wildlife.
How can landowners help reduce these losses? One option is to plant trees. If you are planning a new farmyard or field shelterbelt, and would like to help wildlife at the same time, then consider including species with higher food and cover benefits in your planting.
More trees are not only good for the landowner and the wildlife, they're good for the environment as well.
Research conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) Shelterbelt Centre in Indian Head, SK, suggests that planting trees and shrubs helps sequester, or capture, atmospheric carbon, thereby reducing greenhouse gas levels. By lowering carbon levels, trees help reduce the effects of global climate change.
The pace of this change is already having an impact on wildlife. The ranges, migration patterns and breeding cycles of species worldwide are shifting. Species are threatened when climate-induced habitat changes occur faster than the species' ability to adapt.
Standard field shelterbelts are usually one-species rows, such as green ash, lilac, caragana, maple, etc. While these trees provide some nesting cover and protection, they are lacking in terms of variety and availability of food. Wildlife that do not migrate to warmer climates rely on plants, such as silver buffaloberry, which retain their fruits over winter. By including fruit-bearing shrubs in a standard shelterbelt, the landowner not only reaps the benefits of wind protection and snow trapping, but also provides areas where wildlife can feed and live.