Did you know that it is the tiniest woodland animals that play an essential role in keeping forests healthy and thriving?

Ryan Stephens is the lead researcher of work being conducted at the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at UNH in Durham. He says small animals help fungal spores spread and fungi colonize plants roots and increase nutrient and water uptake of trees.

“Small mammals such as mice, voles, chipmunks, and shrews play an important ecological role by eating truffles and mushrooms and dispersing spores to new areas. This dispersal is particularly important as trees regenerate following disturbances such as timber harvests,” Stephens said.

Courtesy Photo

Stephens said that by using management strategies that retain downed woody and existing patches of vegetation, forest managers can help small mammals as they are important dispersers of fungi following timber harvesting.

“Ultimately, such practices may help maintain healthy regenerating forests,” Stephens said.

The new research is published in the journal Functional Ecology (DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.13855). In addition to postdoctoral researcher Stephens, researchers include experiment station scientist Serita Frey, professor of natural resources and the environment at UNH; Anthony D’Amato, professor of silviculture and applied forest ecology at the University of Vermont; and experiment station scientist Rebecca Rowe, associate professor of natural resources and the environment at UNH, according to a press release.

This spring a number of people noticed an increase in chipmunks on the Seacoast.

Wildlife Biologist Karen Bordeau works for New Hampshire Fish and Game. She is the leader of the agency's small game project and said in July they were receiving reports from the public.

"People are reporting a large number of chipmunks in their yard and near their garden," Bordeau said at the time.

Bordeau said the increase was coming from a large number of nuts which were available last fall.

Bordeau explained that chipmunks store their food underground and if they have lots of acorns and beech nuts when they come out of hibernation in the spring, the females can produce two litters.

"They'll produce a lot of babies," Bordeau said.

An average litter is four or five chipmunks, Bordeau said.

Fish and Game officials track the foods wildlife eat, such as nuts and berries, so it wasn't completely surprising there were so many chipmunks.

Bordeau said mice were also doing well as a population.

Contact Managing News Editor Kimberley Haas at Kimberley.Haas@townsquaremedia.com. 

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