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Photo credit: USFWS.
Photo by Ryan Kozar
Photo by Ryan Kozar
Photo credit: Andy Bauer.
The Willamette Valley has long been a place of beauty and diverse landscapes.
Bounded by the Coast Range Mountains to the west and the Cascade Range to the east, this basin contains a variety of habitats that provide vital homes for the valley’s unique fish and wildlife.
Learn about some of the important habitats in our county, including oak woodlandsOak Woodlands A mix of oak trees and shrubs. and prairies, wetlands, riparian areasRiparian Areas Areas of land that occur along the edges of rivers, streams, lakes, and other bodies of water., and mixed conifer forests.
Habitat connectivity The degree to which separate patches of habitats are connected. is important for many species:
Similar to the way people travel around their communities, wildlife must move through a landscape to fulfill their needs.
Many fish species spend parts of their life in different environments. Fish need connections between aquatic habitats to complete their lifecycle.
- Habitat connectivityHabitat Connectivity The degree to which separate patches of habitat are connected. fun fact:
The Willamette Valley is an important part of the Pacific Flyway – a chain of natural areas used by at least 1 billion migrating birds each year .
- Growing human populations crowd out wildlife:
As our communities continue to expand, natural areas are converted into buildings, roads, and farms. This reduces the amount of space wildlife can live in.
- Not-so-fun fact:
By 2050, the population of the Willamette Valley is projected to nearly double, approaching 4 million people . With this increased population comes significant threats to the region’s natural habitats.
Habitat fragmentationWhen large areas of habitat are broken up into disconnected pieces. reduces habitat quality.
Wildlife need more than just access to natural areas. They need high quality habitat that provides good resources and safety. Fragmented habitat is less beneficial to wildlife because:
- Ecosystems become unbalanced.
Healthy ecosystems have a diverse mix of plant and animal species. When habitats are broken into smaller pieces, conditions like sunlight and moisture change. This affects the types of species that can live there and how many.
- There are fewer resources.
Small pieces of habitat provide less food, water, and shelter than large areas of habitat. Without proper nutrition and a place to rest, wildlife become sick.
- Animals are put in danger.
Roads and buildings are common reasons habitat becomes fragmented. When wildlife try to navigate these obstacles, they are at greater risk of being injured or killed.
- Communities are isolated.
Healthy wildlife populations have a diverse gene pool. When animals are stuck in one place, they have a harder time finding a mate and genetic diversity is reduced.
How we can help:
How can we nurture thriving habitats?
UrbanizationUrbanization The process of an area shifting from rural to urban land use., invasive plants, and pollution have played major roles in degrading Oregon’s habitats. By creating new habitat and expanding existing habitat, we can protect these essential resources and boost our region’s biodiversityBiodiversity The variety of species present..
We can all support thriving habitats through practical conservation actions:
- Plant Pacific Northwest native plants
Native plants are crucial to thriving habitats. Planting well-chosen native plants helps create wildlife habitat, conserve water, and reduce the need for chemicals that can pollute our watershed. Not only do native plants benefit local wildlife and ecosystems, they also bring the beauty of our region’s natural areas closer to home.Native Plants
- Create wildlife habitat
We can create wildlife habitat by expanding access to food and clean water in urban, rural, and forested landscapes. Wildlife also need places to nest or take shelter from bad weather or predators.Creating Wildlife Habitat
- Support pollinators and beneficial insects
Pollinators and beneficial insects are not just fun to see but also help fight garden pests, pollinate food crops, and improve soil structure. Like larger wildlife, insects need access to food, water, and shelter to flourish.Pollinators and Beneficial Insects
1. Audubon Society: https://www.audubon.org/pacific-flyway
2. Oregon Conservation Strategy: https://www.oregonconservationstrategy.org/ecoregion/willamette-valley/