I am continuing with part three of my interview with Dave Scarpitti, an Upland Game Bird Biologist with MassWildlife. Dave will be speaking about habitat management at the Mass Audubon Birders Meeting Saturday March 15th at Bentley College.
Describe edge habitat in relation to grasslands.
Edge habitat is where grassland and forest meet. This area enhances biodiversity because it boasts the characteristics of two different structures. However, there are benefits and minuses. They support wildlife like foxes, and can be good for plants and various insects. However, a negative edge effect for birds is that predators like foxes and raptors lurk there since they have cover and then can sneak out and grab them.
What types of native grasses grow in Massachusetts?
Warm season grasses are most abundant, used in places like horse pastures, but they're not native. They give more homogeneous ground cover, and are most palatable in the middle of summer. Cool season grasses on the other hand, are native and grow much differently. They grow more patchy and birds and other grassland inhabitants like the clusters this grass grows in because they can crawl between them and hide for cover from predators when foraging. Cool season grasses benefit a larger group of species, and are native birds are better adapted to using them. They are most palatable in the early spring and fall.
Does you ever recommend local seed resources to landowners? There is a small niche market for commercial cool season grasses. We might tell them to look for a specific blend.
Do you know of any prescribed burns taking place in Massachusetts as a means of habitat management?
Some habitat types are very well adapted to burning- pitch pine for example. They best regenerate after a burn since the high heat melts the wax in the cones and allows them to easily disseminate their seeds. Also, fire helps reduce competition from other plants. Prescribed burns are more likely to take place in southeastern Massachusetts- like the Cape where pitch pine are abundant. Montague is one area in Western Mass where prescribed burns have been done. This area also supports pitch pine and scrub pine. Prescribed burning can also be used as an alternative to manage debris from land clearing.