69 YEARS OF FOREST DYNAMICS AT THE HUTCHESON MEMORIAL FOREST: IS THE PAST PROLOGUE?

Project Details

Description

Regeneration failure of canopy trees due to overabundance of white-tailed deer and invasive non-native plant species is a critical issue defining the future of Northeastern forests. These stressors affect current and future populations of economically important tree species by impeding plant regeneration. In a test site, Rutgers' Hutcheson Memorial Forest (HMF), a unique old growth forest of this region, we have recently discovered detailed forest structure data sheets and field plots from 1950. These give us the opportunity to compare the historic structure from 66 years ago to four more recent data intervals. These 1950 detailed data sets also provide a foundation for putting future forest dynamics into a very long-term ecological perspective. Additionally, a 3-meter tall deer-proof fence was installed around HMF in the fall of 2015; we now can study precisely the dynamics of forest regeneration after the substantial removal of the main herbivore stressor.However, even without deer herbivory, the fate of this forest and others in the region is uncertain. Future climate change, particularly more severe summer droughts, is expected to increase tree mortality and decrease rate of recruitment, resulting in a loss of habitat and wood products. Understanding how the future of woodlots (important for both forest products and ecosystem services such as groundwater protection and air quality) can be made sustainable requires detailed understanding of the impact of these stresses and pragmatic treatments to ameliorate them. The results of this study will inform regional forest health and sustainability management protocols. We will study the old plots and see what has changed. We will compare areas with and without deer. We will record growth of the wildflower populations now that dense deer herds are gone.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date8/4/167/14/19

Funding

  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA))

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