Habitat Description Method

You will need to prepare a list of habitats and their areas in a standard format before you continue. You will be working through a decision table for each habitat on your site, so you will have to map it accordingly.

Most smaller properties contain only 10 to 15 habitats, maybe less. If you have around 40 to 50 habitats, mapping and recording them could take 3 to 4 hours.

If you do not have all the information for a habitat, you should be able to infer some characteristics, such as no ground shrubs in a forest stand that has a closed canopy and no light penetration to the ground, or the presence of large trees, tree cavities, and snags in an old growth forest.

Here is how:


Decision Trees

Main Habitat Type Moisture Type Age Canopy Shrubs
Forest (1) Wet (1)
e.g. forest swamp; at least partly flooded for part of the year.
Conifer (1)
greater than 80% conifer species.
Young (1)
less than 20 years old, small trees with exposed ground in between trees.
Closed (1)
not much light gets through to ground.
Yes (1)
shrubs present covering a major portion of the forest floor.
Moist (2)
e.g. rain forest; frequent rain keeping forest floor moist.
Mixed (2)
more than 20% each of conifer and deciduous species.
Intermediate (2)
greater than 20 to 60 years; young vigorous trees.
Intermediate (2)
light gets to about 30% of the ground at some time during the day.
No (2)
no or few shrubs, may be present in small clumps.
Mesic (3)
e.g. deciduous forest with moist forest floor mmost of the time.
Deciduous (3)
greater than 80% deciduous.
Mature (3)
trees slowing in growth, some starting to die due to crowding and fall and accumulate on forest floor.
Open (3)
light gets to almost all ground at some time during the day.

Main Habitat Type Moisture Density Height Shrubs
Grassland (2) Mesic (1)
lush, moist grassland for most of the year.
Dense (1)
very little ground visible.
Tall (1)
from knee high to over head; shades most of the ground.
Dense (1)
shrubs intermixed with grass; requiring many detours while walking.
Dry (2)
turns brown for at least half of the year.
Intermediate (2)
ground visible in most places.
Intermediate (2)
Moderate (2)
easy waalking between shrubs.
Arid (3)
turns brown for most of the year; can occur in patches of desert vegetation.
Sparse (3)
bare ground abundant between plants.
Low (3)
not much taller than mowed grass.
Low (3)
very scattered or absent.
None (4)
very little or no vegetation.

Main Habitat Type Type
Human Dominated (3) Agricultural - pasture (1)
Agriculture - cultivated (2)
residential - low density (3)
e.g. subdivision.
Residential - high density (4)
e.g. downtown, highrises.
Commercial (5)
e.g. downtown, highrises.
Agricultural - old field (6)
e.g. used to be agricultural butu abandoned to tall grass growth or weedy; slowly converting to shrubs and small trees.

Main Habitat Type Flow Type Vegetation
Water (4) Fast (1)
rapids or plentiful riffle areas.
River (1)
None (1)
e.g. sand or mud flats.
Slow (2)
sluggish movement, meandering, no or very little fast water
Stream (2)
Submergent (2)
Still (3)
impounded water with no noticeable movement except near inflows and outflows.
Deep lake or ocean (3)
usually cold, not much bottom visible.
Floating (3)
Shallow lake (4)
bottom visible over large areas.
Emergent - no or few shrubs (4)
Pond or small lake (5) Emergent - many shrubs (5)
Beaver pond (6)
dammed stream.
Marsh (7)
grassy vegetation.
Fen (8)
shrubby vegetation but with slowly flowing or standing water.
Bog (9)
wet, saturated ground with shrubs or stunted trees; acidic.