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Some silver maple forest ecology
- Notes for Hearing of March 4, 2003
Environment and Health Committee
"Silver Maple Forest sewer and water hookups and related matters"

Good flooding
Seasonal spill of water over a river's bank is actually a healthy part of the river's yearly routine, as the shallow lake or pond spreads under the boughs of the surrounding trees. Depositing a blank rich fertilizing soil called alluvium. By slowing down the water on the upstream end, the floodplain lessens the burden to downstream communities. It is only when we build vacation homes, agricultural fields, buildings and office parks on this floodplain that the high water becomes an insurance liability.

When water subsides, fertilizer silts sprout a salad of grasses, herbs and mushrooms, relished by rabbits, white tailed deer, eastern coyote, small voles and mice and other mammals. Water tolerant shrubs provide nesting cover for the prolific yellow warblers and other song birds which reside in the greater Alewife ecosystem all summer.

Ecology tree transition
Cottonwoods, most of which are elsewhere on the Reservation, but have died off from around the Upland silver maple forest, have now given way to willows, birch elm, cherry and mostly silver maple. Trunks of silver maple rise 80 feet above the floodplain. Further back in the eastern reservation reside birch and poplars which also benefit from the moist soil.

Over 100 plant species inventories are on the web many more than were noted by town and developer biologists.

Northern floodplain forests
Northern Floodplain forests are a good place for wildlife to be, drinking water, edible aquatic plants, rich soil for wriggling earthworms, shallow ponds alive with samamander frogs, and snakes, not being found.

The huge trees of the floodplain are extremely attractive leafy canopies for nests, large amounts of seeds and nuts, and trunks riddled with nesting cavities and bark insects. Combination of broadleaf forest and moist lowlands makes floodplain vital not only to its residents but also to animals that visit from the Upland (Until now, those corridors are unknown).

Water and forest
Migrating ducks float among the submerged trunks, safely dabbling for acorns and seeds on the forest floor beneath them. Colony nesting birds such as herons, cormorants and egrets build their nests in the branches above the ponds, enjoying the temporary immunity from predators.

Refuge for upland animals
As anyone in the flat heartland knows, a river floodplain provides a corridor of dense, wild vegetation in an otherwise monotonous landscape of fields, and buildings. This forest becomes a place of refuge for upland animals especially during severe winters and from places of growing urban human populations.

Forest floodplain birds and ducks living together Look for cavity nests of wood ducks, which are often created by pilated woodpeckers, huge woodpeckers, whose futures are uncertain. Plenty of cavities in the silver maple forest. Look for a 16 inch dead tree in diameter, Entrance ideally 4 inches high and 3 wide. There's enough space for 10-15 young. Wood ducks that FAR has created nesting boxes for, are there, as are the rarely seen large pilated with many of their large rectangular holes in the forest.. I am only mentioning what I have seen, and what our tour groups have seen.

Inventories include rare species
Although I have not spotted rare species as has been done by one of our naturalists and pioneer Alewife Guides, Ralph Yoder, they have been spotted and identified. There is a visiting American Eagle to Little pond that is well camouflaged by the silver maple forest

I have spotted our elusive beaver several times on the north side of Little River, but not yet in the water. A preliminary inventory to Riverways grantee Dave Brown is the very well know Alewife Ecology Guide of Stew Sanders who has inventories till 92 of the growth and diminishing of the Alewife flora and fauna.
The 2002 update with all 70 pages is on our FAR website,

16 mammal species found
Many have seen our wildlife habitat in groups which FAR brought out to the beaver quaking aspen cutting area, Through our docent trainings we've spotted and examined coyote tracks.
Seen scat from mink and weasel. Identified many birds all in your packets. You can join our docent training this March and April for the same experience.

90 bird species located The most enjoyment comes from hearing the common white throated sparrow, and at the Christmas bird count, tens of thousands of robins and starlings, in warmer weather than this, nest in the fields. Great hobby and learning to identify the many species of migrating birds as they come to Alewife next month, a good number of which breed and stay for the summer to nest.

Ellen Mass
Friends of Alewife Reservation