|By Maryann Whitman
and Robert Bailey of the U.S. Forest
Every now and then I leaf through past issues
of the Wild Ones Journal (which you can
do easily if you put all your past issues in
3-ring binders on publication hangers, available
from Donna VanBeucken), and revisit an issue
that impresses the socks off me. The May/June
issue of 2002 is one such. In fact I would
call it a milestone issue. On three pages a
small cadre of members/volunteer writers restated
the Wild Ones mission statement and brought
us up to date on new ideas. They very
succinctly introduced us to ideas of ecoregions
and local ecotypes. Portia, Mariette, Pat,
Lorraine and Christine, thanks again for a
complicated task well done!
It is up to us, the readers, to educate ourselves
more deeply, to take ownership of the ideas
of ecoregions and ecotypes. I’ve been
doing just that on the web. Following are some
useful sites. (Some of these sites have addresses
you may write to for free maps and information.)
• http://for-wild.org/land/ecotype.html. ‘The
Importance of Local Ecotype” is on this
site at Wild Ones. Selecting ‘The Nature
Conservancy” will take you to http://gis.tnc.org/data/MapbookWeb.
The Nature Conservancy’s Ecoregion map.
It is based on Bailey’s map of U.S. ecoregions
Maps like this one, covering large areas like
the continental U.S., are on a very gross scale.
However, you can “zoom in” to more
detailed scales. Each region of North America
is broken down into six levels.
As an example, one Michigan map shows Michigan's
two provinces subdivided into four sections:
200 HUMID TEMPERATE - DOMAIN
210 Warm Continental
212 Laurentian Mixed Forest
Northern Great Lakes - Section
Southern Superior Uplands - Section
Hot Continental - Division
(Continental) - Province
Erie and Ontario Lake Plain - Section
South Central Great Lakes - Section
• Descriptions of the terms used above
can be found at: http://www.fs.fed.us/land/pubs/ecoregions/.
Do read the useful introduction. Then
explore. Information is available on any place
from the Aleutian Islands, off the coast of
Alaska, to the Everglades of Florida. Don’t
be put off by the terminology. Keep reading
and you’ll find friendly sentences, such
as: "The Everglades is a shallow, broad
(60 mi, 95 km) river with freshwater
flowing southward from Lake Okeechobee to the
Gulf of Mexico."
• Another, even more refined, map based
on Bailey’s work, by Dennis Alberts,
a Michigan ecologist, shows subsections
and sub-subsections of ecoregions. It
is at http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/1998/rlandscp/rlandscp.htm.
Though this site covers only Michigan,
Wisconsin and Minnesota, it gives you
an idea of what you might find for your
own area. A map for the country is available
on CD from Jim Keys (firstname.lastname@example.org) at
the Forest Service headquarters, Washington,
• Schematics of domains, divisions and
provinces are drawn out at: http://www.fs.fed.us/land/ecosysmgmt/ecoreg1_home.html.
• Robert Bailey delineated ecoregions
in the first place. You may order information
and maps from him at http://www.fs.fed.us/institute/ecoregions/bob_pubs.html.
Those without web access may write to:
USDA Forest Service
2150 Centre Ave. Suite
Ft. Collins, CO 80526
The Oakland Wild Ones Chapter (email@example.com)
has a small stock of one of Bailey’s
publications, Ecoregions-Based Design for
(mailed in the continental US and Canada
for $56 U.S., shipping included). The
book is also available for $50, plus
shipping, at Amazon.com – but you won’t
be supporting a Wild Ones Chapter!
Bailey is currently working on a manuscript
that summarizes and illustrates the rationale
he used in identifying ecoregion boundaries.
It's aimed at getting at the question that
invariably arises, "What are the differences
between all these maps?"
Which came first, the blue jay or the oak…
In a hollow by my pond not far from the house
is a grouping of three bur oaks. They are all
of an age and three or four feet apart. I have
wondered how they came to grow there, so close
together, as if all planted at the same time,
at the edge of a deep woods. They aren’t
in a straight line or equidistant so they don’t
seem to have been tended by a human hand.
I believe I found my answer in an essay in “Living
Bird,” published by the Cornell Lab of
It seems that in the fall blue jays engage
in an instinctive and secretive burying behavior.
They carry four and five acorns at a time in
their mouths to spots at the edge of the forest
and bury them as part of their winter cache.
If the jay happens not to find all his cache
before spring, the acorns are at just the right
depth to sprout and survive—sheltered,
but not as deeply buried as by a squirrel.
Radio tracking work has found that an individual
jay may cache as many as 5000 acorns in a single
season, carrying them a distance of more than
a mile or sometimes flying from one tree to
the next, in spurts of less than 100 yards
To understand the physiological challenge
faced by the jay, you might pop three or five
acorns inside your mouth, hold another in your
teeth, and run around the block. If the warm-up
lap doesn’t get your heart racing, spit
out the acorns and replace them with coconuts
for a more proportionate sense of the jay’s
In Oecologia, Natural History and Journal
of Biogeography, W.C. Johnson of South
Dakota State University has argued "air
transport by jays must have been a primary
reason for the swift range extensions
of oaks and beeches northward up the
continent as the ice retreated from North
America following the most recent Ice
Age. Because their seeds were so often
carried to the leading edges of the forest
– where jays prefer to cache – oaks and beeches
moved north much faster than they could
possibly have done without avian assistance".
Other biologists have noted that oaks reach
their greatest diversity where jays are also
most represented and are absent from areas
of the globe that jays don’t inhabit.
Maryann Whitman is a member of the Oakland
(MI) Chapter and the Journal’s features
to the Grapevine page.