BERNARDSVILLE - "Do you femelschlag?" If you see that question emblazoned on a T-shirt, as you are out and about, be sure to stop the wearer and ask them to explain.
You’ll definitely learn something about conservation and supporting the diversity of wildlife species in New Jersey, and you’ll likely have a new friend.
You’ll have just met one of the “Fighting Femelschlagers,” a team made up of New Jersey Audubon’s proud stewardship department, which have competed in the World Series of Birding (WSB) together for at least five years. They are gearing up once again to take part in the 35th anniversary of the WSB on Saturday, May 12.
You’ll also quickly learn that femelschlag is a German term for a forest management practice that is designed to emulate natural disturbance patterns and encourage tree species diversity in multiple-age classes, thereby enhancing ecosystem services and complexity.
In layman’s terms, femelschlag means to help natural habitats that are out of balance, or lacking diversity – where there is not a healthy mixture of different types of habitats, such as trees of different ages and sizes, open space for ground cover to grow, or areas where dead plants can decompose. Often this management involves strategically thinning out some older trees to open up the canopy.
Simply: femelschlag is about creating healthy forests.
A lot of the sustainable forestry work done by New Jersey Audubon in support of various rare species involves this tried-and-true management practice. John Parke, team captain and Stewardship Project Director at New Jersey Audubon, explains why femelschlag is making such a huge difference in the Garden State.
“New Jersey has many forests where all the growth is the same age, which happens when farmland or a previously cleared forest is left to grow back all at once,” Parke said. “When we mimic the natural process of, say, a major storm or a fire, we bring the forest back into balance, and the impact is amazing.
Species that were dormant come back to life, migrant species find areas to return to, and the forest comes back to life,” he added. “Not only birds, but all sorts of species benefit.”
What does this have to do with the World Series of Birding, the biggest and best 24-hour birding event in the nation?
The Fighting Femelschlagers not only bird and work together, they are raising funds to support their critical work. As one of the top fundraising teams, the Fighting Femelschlagers are able to raise thousands of dollars each year from individuals and corporate sponsors.
“All of the work of our stewardship team is funded by grants,” Parke explained. “We count on what we raise through the World Series of Birding to help cover what grants don’t, and to help us take advantage of opportunities that come while we’re in the process of applying for funding. We’re really grateful for our many supporters, who are as passionate about the work as we are.”
So what’s the team’s strategy for Saturday, May 12?
The Fighting Femelschlagers will be sure to appreciate the beauty of New Jersey’s varied habitats, while competing for a great cause. “We take our time, enjoy being out in nature, and get to relax and experience the diversity of our state while seeing some really cool birds,” Parke said.
If you’d like to support the habitat conservation and stewardship work of the Fighting Femelschlagers, please visit the team’s donation page: http://worldseriesofbirding.org/teampage.asp?fundid=1196#.WrvIoojwa1s. And it is not to late to compete in the 35th-annual World Series of Birding. Sign up here: http://worldseriesofbirding.org. Learn more about New Jersey Audubon at njaudubon.org