Coming Into the Light
A slight breeze moves the leaves of the grassy opening, sunlight floods the buggy as we enter the small clearing. Forest openings are interesting in that they give you a sense of being within a place.
Doug has brought Nick and I nearly into the center of this 150 acre timber tract. This is a place. Quiet, yet alive. Within this opening you sense that all the forest dwellers have all eyes on you. A forest opening is not an edge of a field or a road leading you away. A forest opening is a place within and its value to the forest is notable.
Bounded by young saplings, the quarter acre meadow once served as a timber landing when the forest was selectively harvested more than 15 years ago. The ecotone of the forest opening is significant as the transition from forest to grassland creates opportunities for different plants in the shrub and herbaceous layer. Plant communities of a forest edge is comprised of seed and fruit bearing plants both woody and non-woody that wildlife depend on throughout their life cycle. Below is Britannica’s definition of ecotone.
Ecotone, a transitional area of vegetation between two different plant communities, such as forest and grassland. It has some of the characteristics of each bordering biological community and often contains species not found in the overlapping communities. An ecotone may exist along a broad belt or in a small pocket, such as a forest clearing, where two local communities blend together. The influence of the two bordering communities on each other is known as the edge effect. An ecotonal area often has a higher density of organisms of one species and a greater number of species than are found in either flanking community. Some organisms need a transitional area for activities such as courtship, nesting, or foraging for food.
Now we have established the ecological background for the importance of forest openings it is easy to understand why these habitats are important for managing timberland for whitetail and other wildlife. For the record, non of your buddies will allow you state “we are going to plant or create some ecotone” today. Food plot is a more acceptable term and you won’t be looked at cross eyed or called “Ranger Rick”. “Ecotone” is simply the “formal statement of the obvious” when describing why food plots and forest openings are such dynamic parts of the forest.
Food plots in whitetail management circles has become a topic of much study & design. Today, wildlife managers and hunters alike work tirelessly to find the perfect recipe. https://www.deerassociation.com/manage/food-plots/ is a good resource to study on the topic in managing these critical habitats. Good luck with your “ecotone management”.