Assessment of Wildlife Habitat Attributes at Restoration Projects on Northern Wisconsin Lakeshores

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Housing development along lakeshores typically results in the loss of native shoreline vegetation, which can negatively impact habitat structure and associated wildlife populations. We evaluated vegetation restoration efforts on 2 lakeshores in Vilas County, WI, and contrasted them with undeveloped reference lakeshores. The primary goal of the restoration activities was to restore native understory vegetation and habitat structure. Initial measurements made at reference lakeshores showed greater visual obstruction density, greater sapling and shrub densities, greater abundance of downed woody material, and higher canopy coverage relative to initial measurements made at developed lakeshore sites. Three years post-restoration we observed significant increases in visual obstruction density and increased shrub and sapling density at restoration sites. While restoration of complex understory habitats is a slow and uncertain process, a nonmetric multi-dimensional scaling ordination of wildlife habitat attributes suggested that restoration sites are on a developmental trajectory that should increase their similarity to reference sites with time. Further monitoring and adaptive management will likely be needed to ensure restoration goals are met.

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Northeastern Naturalist