Forests in a Looking Glass

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 25, 2010

pine is having a hard time becoming established under a full canopy of trees.


The songbird study is tracking the kinds, numbers and reproductive success of migratory bird species that nest in lower Ozark forests. In the early morning during the first half of the summer, student interns map singing male bird territories on approximately 150-acre plots. On a good day, there can be as many as 70-100 birds on one area. Each area is spot-mapped 10 times during the summer, and a total of 630 spot maps are made over the entire MOFEP site.

The students also search for nests, and revisit "finds" every 3 to 5 days to detect their development and success. They usually find between 300 and 400 nests per summer.

During the latter part of the summer, the 27 birders switch gears and begin trapping birds in fine mesh nets. Birds are identified by species, sex and age; marked with a numbered metal band and released. They caught about 900 birds per summer during the first years of the study, but this increased to 1,400 birds in the summer of 1994, using a refinement in technique.

The bird study is an extension of work in Central Missouri, where forest songbird populations are depressed and nesting success is almost nonexistent because of predation and cowbird parasitism. Studies in fragmented forests in other midwestern states support the notion that edge and conversion to some other habitat is bad for migrant songbirds.

Data collected so far show that on MOFEP sites these problems are low. Overall, more than half the nests are successful for some species while others approach 90 percent. Now we are poised to learn if forest management in large contiguous forests affects these bird populations either positively or negatively.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Workers on the reptile and amphibian study use what they call "drift fences" to trap the objects of their study. The fences consist of three long lines of aluminum flashing buried vertically in the ground to form a "Y." They bury a five-gallon pail at the middle, and funnel traps made from window screens are placed on each side of the "Y." When viewed from afar, a person surely thinks a space alien has visited the woods. Nevertheless, it works!

Unsuspecting toads, frogs, salamanders, skinks, lizards and snakes bump into the aluminum walls. They may decide to go left and crawl into a funnel trap or they may follow the fence

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