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Wooded Islands in a Sea of Prairie

These isolated woodlands are important breeding
habitat for northern prairie birds

JPG -- Typical Stringer Draw

by

Craig A. Faanes

Photo: (Figure 1) A typical stringer draw on a 12% slope in Mercer County, North Dakota. Typical vegetation included Green Ash and American Elm. Photos by C.A. Faanes.


The Nation's thrust toward energy independence has resulted in accelerated leasing and development schedules for coal, oil, and natural gas reserves across much of the western United States. Road development through woodlands and total loss of woodland from surface coal-mining are distinct possibilites as energy development continues.

Upland native woodlands (wooded draws) represent unique vegetative communities of the prairie region owing to their patchy distribution and islandlike character (Fig. 1). Noble et al. (1980) reported that wooded draws occupied about 3-4% of the northern Great Plains. Stewart (1975) listed 38 breeding bird species characteristic of the western North Dakota Badlands community complex. Among these, about 58% were associated with wooded habitats. Faanes (1982) reported that the third highest mean density of breeding birds on a 83-km2 study area in central North Dakota occurred in wooded prairie thickets.

The wooded draw community across much of the northern Great Plains has been altered extensively by land-use practices. In the area west of the Missouri River, energy development has resulted in new impacts on this community. Because of these impacts, descriptive classification systems will be useful in developing multiple-use plans for this community. There is also a need to determine avian use of the wooded draw community and to relate this to the importance of wooded ecosystems as wildlife habitat.

During the 1982 breeding season, I studied the use of wooded draws by breeding birds in a five-county region of western North Dakota. The objectives of this research were to: 1) determine avian use and diversity in wooded draws, 2) to relate the diversity of the avian community to the structure and complexity of wooded vegetation, and 3) to determine the influence of location and size of wooded draws on their value as habitat for birds. This report discusses the first objective.


This resource is based on the following source (Northern Prairie Publication 0658):
Faanes, Craig A. 1984. Wooded islands in a sea of prairie - These isolated 
     woodlands are important breeding habitat for northern prairie birds.  
     American Birds 38(1):3-6.
This resource should be cited as:
Faanes, Craig A. 1984. Wooded islands in a sea of prairie - These isolated 
     woodlands are important breeding habitat for northern prairie birds.  
     American Birds 38(1):3-6.  Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife 
     Research Center Online.
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/habitat/woodisl/index.htm
     (Version 02JAN98).

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