Trees Promote Biodiversity

(Conservation Currents, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, January 2003)

Trees and forests are marvelous places to learn the definition of biological diversity. Much of what one can see, hear, smell, and touch can become important information in thinking about biological diversity. What can be seen and heard will depend of the type of forest, the time of year and time of day, the weather, and sometimes just what happens to wander into the forest. But each and everything observed—from the different trees, shrubs, and other plants, to the birds, squirrels, or other wildlife—are a part of the biodiversity in that forest.

Knowing about different forests is a good way to begin thinking about how to treat forests so that a variety of plants (flora) and animals (fauna) flourish.

The most biologically rich place in the forest is the soil. Millions of tiny bacteria and other organisms found in the soil, but too small for the naked eye, create the living base for the forest. Hence, protecting biodiversity requires the protection of the soil and its life as well as the more visible plants and animals.

The canopy, the very tops of the trees, is another whole world of life that is an important part of the forest community. Scientists study these treetop dwellers and often are astounded by the proliferation of life, sometimes including species never before recorded because they have lived their entire life cycles far off the ground and out of sight. These unseen fauna are a vital strand in the forest’s future. They produce food for other species, use other species for food, recycle plant material and nutrients, and help assure that the forest community can function. Though these animals are often unseen, they are still vital for the success of the forest.

For people who own or manage forests, understanding these various parts of the biological community can provide ideas for how to treat the forest so that all the various living “parts” can continue to function.

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