Wildlife Corridor and Fencerow Establishment

Early Successional Corridors Forested Corridors

As farming became more mechanized and equipment has become larger fencerows and other small forested corridors have been removed to increase field size. This increased field size and loss of corridors has reduced available habitat for many wildlife low mobility wildlife species such as rabbits and quail. The removal of fencerows and other connective strips has also fragmented populations of these less mobile wildlife species by reducing the ability of individuals to move from one habitat patch to another and from one subpopulation to another. Fencerows and forested corridors historically played a key role in survival and distribution of quail, rabbits, and a number of other wildlife species. Re-establishment of these critical habitats and corridors is often difficult to do, but in instances when the landowner is willing to re-establish these corridors there are particular guidelines that should be followed.

Early Successional Corridors (fencerows)

These corridors where easily removed as grasses could easily be plowed for crops and the thickets dozed to make field larger. Other ones have become narrow linear fencerows choked with invasive species such as privet, honeysuckle, or muliflora rose. The canopies are 80 to 100 year old trees providing little cover and protection for wildlife. Early successional corridors should be planted to shrubs and native grass and forbs. These corridors should be designed as native grass and forb plantings with headquarter and stepping stone thickets (see thicket establishment) scattered along the corridor or as shrub rows with native grass buffers on one or more sides. Early successional corridors should be between 50ft to 200ft wide and as long as needed to connect suitable habitats together.

Option 1-Native Grass and Thicket Corridor

The native grass and thicket corridor designed as a native grass and wildflower buffer with groups of shrubs planted parallel to the field edge. The corridor should be planted with a native grass and wildflower mix for wildlife, see our sections on Native Grass and Forb: Establishment and Maintenance and Native Grasses and Forbs for Wildlife. During the fall of the second year, thickets should be established along the corridor. One headquarter thicket should be established for every 300 linear feet of corridor with stepping stone thickets established every 50ft to 75ft between headquarter thickets or other woody cover. On short corridors less than 500ft long only stepping corridors every 50ft to 75ft will be needed. For additional information on stepping stone and headquarter thickets checkout our section on Thicket Establishment.

Option 2- Shrub Row and Native Grass Buffer Corridor

The shrub row and native grass buffer corridor differs only in that a minimum of 4 rows of shrubs are planted in the center of the corridor with no more than 10 rows of shrubs on wider corridors. Shrubs rows should be planted at 5ft intervals. The remaining buffer is planted to a wildlife friendly mix of native grasses and wildflowers. Shrub survival should be greater than 50%. If gaps in the rows result from shrub mortality these gaps should not be replanted, but left to create more diversity in the corridor.

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Forested Corridors

Forest corridors should be located along streams and rivers or areas in areas where connection of blocks or patches of forest habitat is necessary.

A riparian buffer along a ditch, stream, or river should be planted to trees and shrubs. In areas with a high level of nutrient runoff from crop fields or pastures a native grass and forb buffer should be established. This buffer will filter out sediment before it reaches the water, improving the quality of the stream, stabilize the ditch or stream bank, and provide excellent cover for wildlife. Riparian buffers benefit a variety of species including mink, otter, woodpeckers, kingfishers, reptiles and amphibians. When a forested corridor is placed along a stream, the shading of the water reduces water temperatures and increase aquatic life in the stream. When establishing a riparian buffer livestock should be kept out of the corridor to minimize erosion and lessen habitat destruction due to grazing and trampling.

A riparian corridor should be a minimum of 50 ft wide. A forest corridor may need to be minimum of 100ft or wider depending on the species you are providing a corridor for. Wider corridors provide habitat for more species and species sensitive to edge, so the maximum width needed will depend on the species of interest.

When establishing a riparian or forest corridor 80% of trees planted should be hard mast (nut bearing) with a mix of red and white oak and other hard mast with the remaining 20% planted to soft mast trees. Another option is to plant 100% in hard mast species and allow birds and other wildlife species to deposit soft mast. Species like maple, ash, sycamore, and birch will often pioneer areas easily with their windblown seed. An example mixture of hard mast is 1/3 red oak, 1/3 white oak, and 1/3 other hard mast with. Spacing for planting trees should be no less than 10ft X 10ft in width. A wider spacing between trees will allow more time for early successional wildlife to utilize the corridor before the canopy closes. For additional information on establishing trees see our tree and shrub planting section.

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