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Cultivated lands are lands that have been planted, tilled or harvested and can include orchards, groves and nurseries as well as typical row crops such as soybeans, corn and wheat. Historically, agriculture was very important in the project area; farms lined the western shore of Lake St. Clair by the late 1800s.
As Detroit, and to a lesser extent, Windsor began to grow, agriculture declined in importance, but it continues to play an important role further north, particularly in the Canadian portion of the project area, where it constitutes over 77 percent of the project area. Cultivated lands make up the single largest category of land cover within the project area, occupying almost 50 percent of the total area. In 2000, they occupied 377,987 acres (152,996 hectares). The amount of land occupied by agriculture and its relative contribution to the economy in the region have decreased over the years, but the potential impact of agricultural practices on environmental quality is still enormous, particularly as it affects water quality in wetlands, streams, rivers, and Lake St. Clair itself.
Agriculture has been implicated in the decline of about 40% of endangered species, and historically, was the primary cause of habitat loss and fragmentation in the lower 48 states. Providing connections between the remaining areas of high quality habitat is critical. Fencerows along roads, windbreaks and shelter belts between fields can provide both food and cover for birds, small mammals, and some reptiles and amphibians, as well as vital linkages or corridors between larger habitat patches. Additionally, they attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. Within these corridors, native plants which provide berries, nectar or seeds are particularly valuable for wildlife. Vegetative buffers along stream corridors can provide additional habitat, as over 70% of all terrestrial animal species use stream corridors at some point in their life cycle. Buffers also improve water quality by preventing erosion and filtering out fertilizer and agricultural chemicals.
For more information, see: Coastal Habitat Assessment, Section IV (PDF)