How Does Cedar Impact Wildlife in the Great Plains?
Eastern redcedar expansion causes major shifts in wildlife communities and is among the largest conservation challenges in the Great Plains. The Plains’ iconic prairie chickens are among the first species impacted by cedar encroachment. As cedar becomes dominant, many other species decline. Including popular game species such as wild turkey, northern bobwhite, and deer. While some species use cedar when it is sparse, no wildlife require cedar.
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[00:00:05.020]As eastern red cedar encroaches into open grasslands,
[00:00:09.320]it completely changes the wildlife community.
[00:00:13.000]The species that avoid trees are the first to go.
[00:00:16.100]But then as the cedar increases in abundance
[00:00:19.140]and begins to shade out herbaceous plants,
[00:00:22.470]then species that require those plants for food,
[00:00:26.010]like white-tailed deer, they begin to suffer.
[00:00:28.560]And it will eventually,
[00:00:31.110]the whole wildlife community will shift.
[00:00:36.460]The species that immediately comes to mind
[00:00:38.600]that's gonna suffer from even extremely low levels
[00:00:42.180]of juniper, just a very few, is prairie chicken.
[00:00:45.490]If you're trying to manage for prairie chicken,
[00:00:47.550]they are not compatible at all with tree cover,
[00:00:50.430]and that is the single biggest issue
[00:00:52.570]in the Great Plains with prairie chickens.
[00:00:56.330]It's also a major problem for wild turkey.
[00:00:59.010]A lot of times juniper will get in the understory
[00:01:01.810]of hardwood forest whether it's oak or cottonwoods,
[00:01:05.220]that turkey need to roost in, so the turkey will use
[00:01:08.300]the oak or the cottonwood or the elm to roost.
[00:01:10.740]But as soon as the cedar grows in the understory,
[00:01:14.350]turkeys will abandon those roost sites.
[00:01:16.900]They'll also typically not loaf
[00:01:19.550]in those forested areas that have cedar encroachment.
[00:01:22.360]Some people also think that the cedar is necessary
[00:01:26.350]for white-tailed deer cover.
[00:01:28.990]Deer certainly use cedar,
[00:01:30.760]but they also use switchgrass, or sumac, or dogwood.
[00:01:34.890]They're not very particular about what they use for cover,
[00:01:37.910]and you certainly don't need cedar
[00:01:40.170]to hold deer on the property.
[00:01:45.640]So there are definitely wildlife species
[00:01:47.800]that use eastern red cedar or other junipers.
[00:01:51.040]However, some of the more popular game species
[00:01:54.330]that a lot of land owners are interested in,
[00:01:56.470]none of those species require cedar.
[00:01:59.200]In fact, most of those species,
[00:02:02.670]once the cedar becomes very numerous,
[00:02:05.250]they start avoiding the areas.
[00:02:07.460]So a few cedar on the landscape may benefit some species,
[00:02:12.610]particular some of the songbirds.
[00:02:15.380]That can easily cross a threshold
[00:02:18.120]where even those species aren't benefiting anymore.
[00:02:20.710]It also often increases mammalian predators,
[00:02:24.370]northern raccoon and Virginia opossum.
[00:02:27.310]Those will increase, so if you're trying
[00:02:29.360]to produce wild turkey or bobwhite,
[00:02:33.450]having a lot of juniper on that property
[00:02:36.010]can change the predator community,
[00:02:37.840]and it might actually increase the amount
[00:02:40.060]of potential predation on ground-nesting birds.
[00:02:44.570]Managing juniper in grasslands is one
[00:02:47.020]of the biggest conservation challenges we have,
[00:02:49.670]and we're losing a lot of wildlife populations
[00:02:51.760]because of increasing juniper.
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