Woodlands Health Management Program
Clark Woodlands and Forest Management
The PRLC’s largest preserve – the 70-acre Clark Preserve – is almost entirely forested. Each part of the preserve has a unique vegetation pattern, which reflects past land use: dense stands of even-aged sugar maple suggest a recent, quick farm abandonment, and stands with various aged trees (including a few ancient trees) indicate the site of open land, but a very long time ago. The local white tail deer equally affects all parts of the Clark Preserve and, consequently, there are virtually no seedlings being recruited into the forest. Additionally, non-native plants are spreading into the preserve from its borders and creating areas of invasive monoculture. Like on all of our preserves, the ecology of the Clark Preserve is currently in a transition phase and our involvement will determine its appearance and function of the future. In other words, if we wish to preserve a forest that supports abundant wildlife, cleans our water and retains our soil, then we must play an active role.
Andrew Hubbard, a forester from the NY Watershed Agricultural Council, visited the Clark Preserve and assessed the forest’s health by reading the trajectory of its trees. See the following video clips for insight into the forest’s health.
Sugar Maples versus Norway Maples
Many decisions go into forest management. You can accelerate and improve forest growth and diversity by selecting the trees that will dominate the ‘stand’. You may choose the healthiest and most vigorous, or you may select a tree for its value to wildlife or for its products such as the sugar maple or white oak. You can manage for a tree’s survival and vigor by opening the growing space around its crown to receive more sunlight which will, in turn, increase the tree’s photosynthetic capabilities and make the tree more resistant to insects and disease.
Woodland management mimics natural forest development to produce a healthier and more valuable forest in terms of diversity for wildlife and landscape. By choosing a ‘preservationist’ approach – also known as a hand’s-off approach – it is highly likely that invasive insects, plants and trees and deer over-browse will increase with native plant species continuing their decline and wildlife habitat being further degraded. (Taken in part from the Watershed Agricultural Council’s ‘An Introduction to Forestry”.)
With a grant from the Watershed Agricultural Council, the PRLC conducted invasive plant removal at the Clark Preserve. The PRLC has been the recipient of two Watershed Agricultural Council grants to assist with the hand-pulling of forest floor invasives in a designated area of the Clark and the girdling of invasive Norway Maples throughout the preserve. We are looking ahead to increase the scope of our woodland health program at the Clark Preserve and learn from its results.
Clark Woodland’s History
As part of this program, vegetative monitoring plots have been established at the Clark and Halle Ravine Preserves. These four-foot radius monitoring plots have been randomly selected to measure tree regeneration over the years. An inventory of the trees and plants growing in each plot is taken once a year and over at least a five-year period, we hope to see an increase in both herbaceous and woody vegetation in light of the town of Pound Ridge’s deer management program (controlled bow-hunting). In the future, it is contemplated that fenced ‘deer exclosures’ may be built to monitor larger areas of re-growth where diversity is re-established.