Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eastern deciduous forest mesic uplands

A mesic deciduous forest in North Eastern Iowa along Twin Springs Creek near Decorah.  This Mesic forest is dominated by Maple, Basswood, and some Elm, Hackberry, and White Pine.  
Upslope from the bottomland forests we talked about in our last blog entry we walk into what is known as a mesic forest.  Mesic is simply a scientific term for a soil that holds a well balanced water water supply, not too much and not too little.  Compared to bottomlands this forest is much more hospitable, the ground is less soggy and their are fewer mosquitoes.  Stinging Nettles and Poison Ivy are still present though.  In the spring, this is where you will find an abundance of forest wildflowers.  A lot of the species found in the bottomlands are also found in the mesic uplands.  Ash, Walnut, Elm, Maple, can be found in both up and bottom lands.  However, in the uplands Walnut is more abundant and there is more White and Green Ash then there is Black Ash.  Black and Red Maple are also more abundant than the Silver Maples common to bottomlands.  There also is the addition of Ironwood and Oak species, such as White and Red Oak.  Overall, mesic woodlands often have a greater diversity of trees then the bottomlands.

Early succession mesic deciduous forest composed mostly of Bigtooth Aspens but also a few Sumac trees.
Succession in the upland forest is different then the bottomlands.  Sumac and Bigtooth Aspens are some of the most common trees to first establish a mesic forest, but these trees usually don't live long before they are replaced by other species such as Oaks, Ashes, Maple, Elm, Walnut, or Basswood.  Red, White, and Bur Oaks are also common early successional trees.  These Oaks however live much longer then Sumac and Aspen and are very common in later successional forests.  The oldest mesic forests are often dominated by Maple and Basswood (in Eastern Iowa anyway).  Dogwood, Elm, and Ironwood are very common shrubby or understory trees in both the mid and late successional forest.
A mid successional mesic forest composed mostly of White Oak but with an understory of Maple trees.  There are not any seedling oaks in this forest because the Oaks require more sunlight then is present in this forest.  Maples however are tolerant of shade and will one day replace these Oak trees.
Coming across animals in the uplands is a little more difficult.  This is probably because the uplands are a little easier for people to walk around in without sinking into some sort of mud pit...  Deer are quite common here and squirrels can be everywhere.  And anywhere you find an abundance of Oak trees you will find turkeys.  Turkeys are quite entertaining to watch.  They love mature Oaks for sleeping in and eating the abundance of acorns they produce.  Turkeys are pretty shy birds and if you are lucky enough to watch a few of them they do all kinds of goofy things.  Just the way they walk around seems goofy to me.  As for flying, it seems weird that a bird that size can ever get off the ground.  But despite their goofiness they they are quite beautiful and amazing creatures.  If viewed in the right sunlight they have an almost iridescent bronze feathered body, and the male strutting and gobbling during spring mating season is an amazing show.

Being the uplands have an abundance of fruits they are also home to an abundance of birds.  Choke Cherries, Dogwood berries, Raspberries, Black Cherries, and Goose Berries are just some of the more common fruits produced here.  There is nearly continuous production of one type of fruit after another through out the summer, supplying a continuous food supply to the animals, and especially birds that reside here during the summer.  These fruits are highly adapted to birds and are in-fact designed to have birds eat them.  A fruits generally bright color simply says "eat me!" to any passer-byer (but don't do this unless you absolutely know what the fruit is, there are poisonous brightly colored fruits such as Poison Ivy!!!).  When a bird eats these fruits the seeds pass right through their digestive tract and are deposited elsewhere, thus the bird aids the transportation of the seeds to colonize new locations.

Nuts are also abundant in the upland forest.  Acorns, Walnuts, and Hickory nuts are abundant in the fall, supplying food for animals and birds of all types.  Everyone knows squirrels love nuts, but so do deer, bear, raccoon, chipmunks, and large birds such as woodpeckers, Blue Jay, and Turkey.  These animals often gorge themselves on nuts when they ripen in the fall.  The high fat content of nuts makes them a great food to fatten animals up for winter.  Some of the other common birds to the upland forest are Warblers of all types, Cardinals, Wood Thrush, Indigo Bunting, Fly Catcher, Gnat Catcher, and Rose Breasted Grossbeak.  The best time to see these birds is early in the morning.
Dunning Springs near Decorah, Iowa.  This waterfall is in mesic forest primarily of Maple and Basswood but also Elm, Hackberry, and Ash.

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