Earth News Journal 13: Forest Succession

The first article that I read for my primary source article requirement discussed early-successional forest habitats and how aquatic biodiversity is impacted by maintaining these early successional forests in small forested wetlands.

According to the study, small watersheds are fundamental units for protecting terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity because they maintain a buffer of protection against harmful pollutants and various runoff chemicals. Upland forest landscapes strongly influence water quality, biodiversity, and ecological health of downstream freshwater zones.

As far as the study could report, there were no negative effects recorded of an early successional forest habitat on aquatic or riparian diversity; it actually increased aquatic production in the surrounding area. However, because of such a little understanding of how early successional forest habitats influence aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity of small watersheds, there are no implemented management requirements to protect against the destruction of early successional forest zones.

Consequently, early successional forest habitats suffer from a multitude of threats, including the reduction in timber management, abandoned fields that were once agricultural, and a reduction in natural landscaping, due to increased commercial and/or residential construction. Also, the disturbance in riparian and adjacent upland forest can affect embedded streams at the forest floor with an increase in sedimentation, disturb surrounding soils (thereby increasing the amount of nutrient input in the surrounding streams), and thin the canopy of trees, causing an increase in light penetration, which then increases water temperatures and invertebrate biomass.

The authors of this scholarly article believe that in order to maintain early successional forest habitats for future benefits, we must find a way to develop funding sources through the state government, provide alternative costs effect management tools, and appeal to private landowners, persuading them to keep and preserve these critical features of the creek and river ecosystem. There are a variety of linkages for energy and nutrient exchanges between streams and adjacent upland forests, implying that these two habitats greatly affect one another.


I admire how this article addressed the importance of maintaining a variety of habitats in a given ecosystem, as opposed to preserving only the creek or only the agricultural land around the creek. The “circle of life” is just that – a circle, with one, continuous, ever-connected loop of infinite recycling. Every biome, every habitat, and every ecosystem are adjoined through simple acts of nature, even if we humans don’t always realize it. When we disturb one element of this circle, we impact other areas that we didn’t even consider disrupting. One example that I remember discussing in class implied the necessity for wolves in the habitat surrounding Yellowstone National Park. Without wolves, the Yellowstone biodiversity dwindled. Nevertheless, with the re-introduction of wolves back into the Yellowstone habitat, the ecological diversity is now thriving, leaving humans to wonder at how critical every species is for life to remain ecologically sustained on Earth. 

Brooks, Robert T., Keith H. Nislow, Winsor H. Lowe, Matthew K. Wilson, and David I. King. “Forest Succession and Terrestrial–aquatic Biodiversity in Small Forested Watersheds: A Review of Principles, Relationships and Implications for Management.”Oxford Journals (2012): n. pag. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.

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