The Ecological Value of Spruce Plantations in Massachusetts
January 2016 - December 2019
- Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
The planting of exotic Norway spruce plantations to supplement native forest stock has been common practice throughout the north-eastern United states over the past century. These plantations, however, were frequently created without much consideration to the effect they would impose on local wildlife diversity. Recent shifts in conservation priorities towards increasing and supporting biodiversity have raised new questions to the role exotic plantations will have moving forward. More specifically, it is widely unknown if the habitat provided by plantations can support an adequate level of biodiversity. This study aims to examine the comparative ecological value of spruce plantations to surrounding native forest stands in Massachusetts, using birds as indicators of biodiversity. In addition to using avian occupancy and abundance, we will weight relative species values by incorporating Partners in Flight Conservation scores to provide a more objective estimate of overall ecological importance. This project is being conducted in partnership between the University of Massachusetts Amherst, USGS Massachusetts Cooperative Research Unit, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and U. S. Forest Service. Through this research, we hope to better inform land managers on how Norway spruce plantations are contributing to their conservation goals.