Wildlife habitats are natural environments of a plant or animal and can be considered an output or product of forest and natural resource management. Wildlife needs a place to live. For people, such a place is called “home”. For wildlife, the place is called “habitat”. But wildlife habitat is not just made up of trees, shrubs, grasses, or crops. It’s a complex mix of plant communities, water, climate, animals, and other environmental features that provide the cover and food for wildlife needs.
Habitat can be divided into four parts: food, water, shelter, and space. When all parts come together, wildlife not only survives but thrives. Remove one of the four and the animals must travel to find the missing component. As the human population grows, our impact on the natural environment also increases. When habitats are isolated or destroyed, wildlife congregates in smaller areas or are forced to find a new area. These conditions put wildlife at risk, including vulnerability to predators, parasites, accidents, and starvation. Some types of animals are not very mobile and local populations can easily become threatened species when their habitat is destroyed or significantly altered.
Wildlife management is the “manipulation” of populations and habitats to achieve a goal. The goal is usually to increase populations, but it can also be to decrease or sustain them. Wildlife managers can try to modify habitat in a way that not only benefits wildlife but also helps people, as well as the habitat itself. Although the definition of wildlife management includes the word “handling”, wildlife managers understand that this includes natural changes or manipulations that may occur over the course of a lifetime.
One of the most important things to remember about wildlife habitats is that they are not static. They are constantly changing and evolving in response to natural and human-caused changes. This means that what was once a suitable habitat for a particular species may no longer be so as the habitat changes around it. It is important to be aware of these changes and take steps to protect habitats from continuing to support the plant and animal life that depend on them.
Each habitat type is home to a unique array of plant and animal life. For example, terrestrial habitats are home to mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and invertebrates. Freshwater habitats are home to fish, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and crustaceans. Marine habitats are home to fish, invertebrates, mammals (such as seals and whales), reptiles (such as turtles), birds (such as penguins), and plants (such as kelp). Coastal habitats are home to fish, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles, birds, and plants.
Human activities can have a significant impact on wildlife habitats. Humans’ most obvious way to impact habitats is through development and land use. When we build homes, roads, and other infrastructure, we fragment habitats and make it harder for plants and animals to find the resources they need to survive. Pollution from human activities can also harm wildlife habitats. For example, runoff from agricultural fields can contaminate freshwater habitats with pesticides and fertilizers. Oil spills can damage marine habitats by contaminating the water and killing fish and other marine life.
Fortunately, there are things that we can do to help protect wildlife habitats. One of the best things we can do is educate ourselves about these special places and the creatures that call them home. We can also take action to protect habitat fragments before they disappear completely. And, we can support organizations that are working to protect and restore habitats around the world. We can help ensure that wildlife habitats remain healthy and vibrant for generations to come by taking these steps.