Special Habitats

Special Habitats are varied places in the landscape that are particularly appealing to one species or another. The natural resource inventories of Fayston, Waitsfield and Warren conducted by Arrowwood Environmental included these special habitat types; bear wetlands, core habitat, deer wintering area; early successional habitat, forested riparian, ledge habitat, mast stands and vernal pools.
Deer wintering areas are areas of mature or maturing softwood cover, with aspects tending towards the south, southeast, southwest, or even westerly and easterly facing slopes. These are important since white-tailed deer in Vermont live near the northern limit of their range in eastern North America . To cope with Vermont 's severe climatic conditions, deer have developed a survival mechanism that relies upon the use, access, and availability of winter habitat where snow loads are lower and less energy is required for movement.
Mast stands refers to forested areas of oak and beech trees that offer nuts important to bears and many other species. In fact, 171 different species are known to use beech or oak stands as habitat including 16 amphibian, 9 reptile, 102 bird, and 44 mammal species.
Many species of wildlife require early-successional forest and shrub habitat. Popular species such as ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and New England Cottontail require this habitat for many of their annual life needs. Songbirds such as the golden-winged warbler nest only in this sort of habitat and, in fact, are at risk of population declines due to the loss of such habitat.
The word 'riparian' literally means of, or pertaining to, the bank of a river or lake. Riparian areas are ecosystems comprised of streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and floodplains that form a complex and interrelated hydrological system. These ecosystems extend up and down streams and along lakeshores, and include all land that is directly affected by surface water. Because of the dynamic nature of rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds, riparian areas have a wide variety of plant and animal communities. These communities form an interconnected food web that ranges from tiny microorganisms to bears and humans. This web also includes reptiles and amphibians, plants, waterfowl, songbirds, bats, mink, and otter. Healthy riparian ecosystems give life to all the species that inhabit them, as well as the species that use the lakes and streams near them, including those species that use bodies of water only at certain times during their life cycles, such as during breeding or migration.
Vernal pools are small wetlands characterized by a lack of vegetation (though they may support some herbaceous wetland species) resulting from the persistence of standing water for a portion of the year. Vernal pools typically occur in small depressions in upland forests over a relatively impermeable substrate layer, but they also may be found in the depressions of some forested swamps. Vernal, or temporary, pools are perhaps best known as important breeding habitat for amphibians. Typical Vermont species that rely on vernal pools for reproduction include the mole salamanders (Spotted salamander, Blue-spotted salamander, and Jefferson salamander), Eastern four-toed salamander, and wood frog.

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