Trends Over Time
Due to the unique agricultural history of the state of Vermont, our landscape has been in a state of constant flux in the last few centuries. In general, the town went from a forested landscape to 80% tree-free when in agricultural use. Now much of the vegetation has grown back, carpeting the landscape in forests once again while only 20% remains open. The town's wildlife has responded in a similar manner, with open-loving species growing in number during the agricultural era and now fading back as they are replaced once again by forest interior animals. Meanwhile, the human population has steadily grown, adding another variable to the changes of the land.
The ecological landscape is a patchwork of interlocking layers relying on each other for life. While vegetation relies heavily on soil composition and nutrients provided by the underlying bedrock, each association of plants provides habitat to a unique set of animals. Over time, the relationships between these layers become so intertwined that it is impossible to tease apart cause from effect. For example, the wetlands near Jericho Center may have originally formed due to a dip in topography. The pond that resulted may have attracted a particular set of lakeside vegetation. At some point, beavers were attracted to the pond, building dams to ensure the continuation of high water. The dams blocked not only water but also sediments that once again changed the soil composition. Meanwhile, birds and other animals aided in seed dispersal, while new plants provide ideal habitat for a new flock of animals. Habitat for plant and animal alike has been altered so many times—by natural processes—that it is exciting to try to piece together the history of the landscape.
Calling this the “Ecological Landscape” is by no means meant to detract the importance of humans as a part of on-going processes. In fact, some of the most significant changes in the ecological landscape follow patterns of human land use. While populations of chestnut-sided warblers, bobolinks, and other open-space-loving creatures benefited from the rise in agriculture and are on the decline as fields return to forest, other species like bobcat and fisher have shown just the opposite trend.
More information about Jericho’s ecological landscape can be found at The Jericho Field Guide site. This website is maintained by the Jericho community, with information provided by town residents.