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From the Spring 2012 Conservationist for Kids

A beaver dam

Change Happens

By Gina Jack

Habitats can change over time. Sometimes this takes many years, and sometimes it happens very quickly. When the changes take place gradually and go through a number of different stages, we call it "ecological succession." Sometimes, natural events interrupt these changes and the habitat returns to an earlier stage, perhaps even a different type.

When a habitat changes to another type the animals that needed the earlier habitat will no longer be able to call it home. Other animals-those that need that new type of habitat-will move in because the area now meets their needs. What's bad for some is good for others.

Change can take place naturally

A tiger swallowtail butterfly on a white cosmos flower
Tiger swallowtail (Photo: Clyde Cohen)

A beaver dams a swift stream, flooding the surrounding forest and creating a quiet pond. Over time, the beaver leaves and the dam breaks, turning the quiet pond into a wet meadow, and then eventually back into a forest.

People can cause habitats to change

Students plant a garden with flowers that butterflies feed upon.

A short-eared owl sitting on a fence post
Short-eared owl (Photo: Jeff Nadler)

If habitat is restored, wildlife may be brought back into an area where they used to live (reintroduced), as happened with wild turkeys. New York's turkey population is now abundant.

An open field or grassland provides good habitat for shorteared owls. As shrubs and trees grow in the field, it becomes a forest. A forest habitat is ideal for woodpeckers.

Photo: Beaver dam