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Important Wildlife and Plant Species by Habitat Type: A Resource for Willamette Valley Farms
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The purpose of this article is to help growers learn more about the types of habitats that are found on Willamette Valley farmlands. It also provide a list of some of the plant and wildlife species that are associated with those habitat types.
*Click on the species link to view more details and pictures
Edge of farm and wildlife habitat in the Willamette Valley (Photo by David G. Vesely, Oregon Wildlife Institute)
Slough along the Willamette River (Photo by Cary Stephens, Greenbelt Land Trust)
Riparian habitats are those adjacent to rivers and streams or occurring on nearby floodplains and terraces. Riparian habitats are shaped and maintained through seasonal flooding, scour, and soil deposition.
Douglas Spirea in a Willamette Valley riparian area (Photo by Jared Kinnear, Clean Water Services)
Riparian habitats also include springs, seeps, and intermittent streams, and many low elevation alluvial floodplains confined by valleys. These habitat types include the active channels, associated oxbows and side channels, seasonally connected ponds, and streamside forests. They form an aquatic and riparian network that connects the Willamette River to tributaries from the Coast Range and the Cascades.
Wetlands are covered with water during all or part of the year. Permanently wet habitats include backwater sloughs, oxbow lakes, and marshes, while seasonally wet habitats include seasonal ponds, vernal pools, and wet prairies. Wetland habitats are highly diverse.
Oak woodlands composed of mixed tree species contain a very complex environment of vegetabion and wildlife species. More than 200 wildlife species use oak woodland habitat types in the Willamette Valley. Oak woodlands house an environment with a large variety of breeding sites and food resources for wildlife compared to surrounding farm fields or grasslands. Oak woodlands also provide shelter during winter and hiding cover from natural enemies.
Oak woodland in Polk County (Photo by David G. Vesely, Oregon Wildlife Institute)
- Olive sided flycatcher
- Western gray squirrel
- Western bluebird
- Western wood-pewee
- Cassin's vireo
- White-breasted nuthatch
- Rubber boa
- Sharptail snake
- Common garter snake
Shrubs are an essential habitat element for many wildlife species in the Willamette Valley. Shrubs provide breeding and nesting ground for several migratory birds. Dozens of other species feed upon the foliage, fruits, or shrub-dwelling insects. Shrubs also provide hiding cover and shelter for birds in the winter months. Hedgerows are composed of trees and shrubs that create a vertical habitat structure that is uncommon on farm fields.
Hedgerows on the Kenagy farm offer wildlife habitat (Photo by Dan Sullivan, The New Farm)
Grasslands include a variety of upland grass-dominated habitats such as upland prairies, coastal bluffs and montane grasslands. In general, grasslands occur on dry slopes or plateaus and have well-drained sandy or loamy soils. Although dominant species vary across Oregon, perennial bunchgrass and forbs dominate native grasslands. In some areas, grasslands are similar to wet prairies and wet meadows in structure and share some of the same prairie-associated plants and animals.
Cropland is extremely variable from every year as well as seasonally. In the Willamette Valley there are many different land cover types and management practices that define the agricultural landscape. No wildlife species is wholly dependent on farmland but many species use cropland during various stages of their lifecyles. Some high priority wildlife species may find suitable breeding habitat among hayfields, vegetable crops, ditches, and other farm areas.
Cornfield on Grand Island in Yamhill County (Photo by Pamela Opfer, OSU Extension)
Legacy trees are old, large-diameter trees as individuals or in small clusters of trees standing in fields, farm yards, and woodlots.
Oregon white oak and Douglas fir (Photo by Lynda Boyer, Heritage Seedlings)
*Native plant links provide species information from Washington State University College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.
The Oregon Conservation Strategy by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provides information about at-risk species and habitats, identifies key issues affecting wildlife and recommends specific actions. Oregon Conservation Strategy: Willamette Valley Ecoregion.
David G. Vesely from the Oregon Wildlife Institute developed a guide specific to the Willamette Valley that addresses wildlife habitat conservation planning on farms. A Guide to Conserving Wildlife on Willamette Valley Farms.
The Food Alliance, an organization that provides third-party certification for social and environmental responsibility in agriculture, developed standards for wildlife habitat conservation on farms. Food Alliance Wildlife Habitat Conservation Standards.
The Wild Farm Alliance has a series of publications with a focus to promote agriculture that helps protect and restore wildlife habitat:
Willamette Valley, Wildlife habitats/biodiversity, Sustainability