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Ecology of Shelburne
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The plant and animal communities living in Shelburne are an integral part of the landscape. Along with soils, the climate of the Champain Valley helps control what natural communities are present. The low elevation of the area, along with the influence of Lake Champlain, keeps the climate more temperate than the mountainous highlands on either side, so that many species can only be found in the Valley. The longer summers and warmer winters also contribute to a longer growing season (up to 150 days, as opposed to under 90 in northeastern Vermont). Shelburne contains a great diversity of natural communities, including many types of forests, fields, wetlands, and pastures.
Plant communities
While much of Shelburne has been cleared to make way for agricultural fields and development, the remaining forests are quite diverse. In areas of richer soils, such as the lakeshore and calcium-rich bedrock, large trees such as oak, hickory, and cedar are present. Along ridgetops and sandier soils, pine forests are more common. Younger or disturbed forests contain many more smaller trees, shrubs, and herbs, as the forest attemps to redevelop. Marshes and rivers support wetland species like reeds and cattails.
A lush decidious forest on rich soil over limestone near Shelburne Pond.
A pine forest on thin, acidic soil overlying sandstone along the lakeshore.
Shrubs and herbs in a developing forest along the LaPlatte River.
A typical marsh/wetland community bordering Shelburne Pond.
Animal communities
Shelburne's diverse plant communities support a large number of animals. Deer, raccoon, and skunks are common throughout the woodlands, as well as a great many bird species. Migrating birds use the open fields and wetlands, as do the numerous fish, reptiles, and amphibians that inhabit Shelburne's rivers and open water. Sightings of bobcats have even been reported along the wilder stretches of land. (Images courtesy of Shelburne PLACE Program)
Amphibians and other water-loving animals such as this blue-spotted salamander make good use of Shelburne's wetlands
White-tailed deer are very common throughout Shelburne, in forests and fields. Deer overpopulation can have serious effects on other natural communities.
Songbirds like this scarlet tanager enjoy Shelburne's diverse woodlands and shrublands
Natural Communities