Habitat Management

Person walking in the woods.

Mass Audubon protects thousands of acres of wildlife habitat across the state, maintaining and enhancing uncommon, exemplary, and vulnerable natural communities on our land.

Our habitat management tools include invasive species control, prescribed burning, mowing, forestry, and carefully planned restoration, all done within an adaptive approach in which monitoring informs ongoing management decisions. We also advise other conservation organizations, municipalities, and private landowners on habitat management options and implementation.

When so much of the Massachusetts landscape reflects the impacts of human activities, it is critical that we apply our knowledge of natural systems to optimize habitat for rare or declining species on our wildlife sanctuaries and beyond. This frequently involves a passive approach: monitoring our land to ensure our objectives are being met. However, in specific cases this requires active intervention to improve conditions for plants and wildlife.

Maintaining Resilience

Resilience is the capacity of a natural system to respond to disturbances by changing while maintaining basic functions such as pollination, plant succession and nutrient cycling. Climate change and other ecosystem stressors are altering the habitats of Massachusetts. Reducing as many stressors as possible increases resilience.  We strive to reduce ecosystem stressors on all lands we manage.  Examples include:

Invasive Species Control

Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to the nature of Massachusetts. These species out-compete, displace, or kill native species, altering the structure and composition of forests and other habitat types.

We actively control invasive species on our own sanctuaries, work with partners on regional efforts, and educate landowners about what they can do. Learn more >

Reducing White-tailed Deer Density

White-tailed deer are a native species in Massachusetts, but in the absence of their natural predators, wolves and mountain lions, these charismatic animals have reached an unsustainably  high population density in many parts of the state. At very high densities, white-tailed deer devour the forest understory, decreasing plant diversity, removing nesting and perching habitat for birds and other wildlife, and removing tree seedlings and saplings that should be the next generation of our forests. We have initiated limited hunting on some of our properties to bring deer density down to sustainable level. Learn more >

Rewilding

Where appropriate, we actively intervene to restore landscape function by undoing previous human development. We remove dams and other impediments to stream connectivity. We take down unused houses, barns, and other structures that fragment upland habitats. We convert former agricultural fields to native habitats such as floodplain forest.

Maintaining Habitats for Uncommon Species

Many species rely on habitats that require management to maintain suitable conditions. For example, grasslands and shrublands provide critical habitat for a particular suite of plants and animals. These species and habitats are among the most rapidly declining types in Massachusetts.

We employ mowing, grazing, prescribed fire, and other methods to maintain grasslands, meadows, heathlands, and shrublands from the Berkshires to the Cape and Islands. We also work with partners to create living shorelines and to restore eroding beaches to maintain nesting sites for coastal birds.

Forest Management

Forests of various ages provide many ecological services including wildlife habitat, flood and erosion control, public health benefits, recreational opportunities, and carbon sequestration. Protecting our forests from development is a crucial first step to secure these natural benefits.

In addition to forest protection, there are various ways to steward forests to retain or at times enhance their ecological services. This includes passive and active approaches. Learn more >