There are 4 deer exclosures established at the Preserve as part of the study to better understand the impacts of deer browse on tree species composition. Each 10x10m exclosure (or fenced area which excludes deer) is accompanied by a control plot which is measured and marked but not fenced. You may see a few of the study sites from trails, and there is signage that explains the work - please do not disturb the important work of these plots.
Trees and saplings in each plot have been identified and are being monitored over time. Several plots have additional equipment as part of EMMA's monitoring of water availability, decomposition, and more. Saplings are measured yearly, while trees are measured every five years, with the study planned to continue for at least 10 years. The plants are monitored for growth (height and diameter), health (canopy coverage and any visual signs of stress), and for signs of deer browse. White tailed deer browse heavily on seedlings and saplings, especially as winter ends and spring begins and food becomes scarce. This damage can have negative impacts on forest regeneration as less young trees are available to fill canopy gaps caused when older trees die. By comparing the data from the exclosures at Huyck Preserve with those at other EMMA sites, we hope to monitor and assess the potential short- and long-term impacts of white-tailed deer populations on the forests in the Hudson Valley.
Our phenology trail along the lower falls trail was created in 2014 in partnership with the EMMA program. In our fall 2017 newsletter we talked about phenology – the study of the timing of biological events – and why it’s important.
Learn more with these links:
An introduction to phenology
A training manual for phenology citizen science volunteers
If you walk the lower falls loop from the back of the Visitors Center parking lot, over the lower falls bridge, then back along Ten-Mile Creek to the road, you may see trees with metal tags or spots on the ground flagged with small red flags – these are our phenology trail specimens! We are currently monitoring several tree and shrub species (red oak, red maple, sugar maple, striped maple, mountain maple, American basswood, yellow birch, Eastern hemlock, American beech, and white ash) and herbaceous species (jewelweed, jack-in-the-pulpit, and Virginia strawberry). Data is being entered in Nature’s Notebook, a cross-country citizen science phenology effort.
If you regularly walk this trail, take a little time to peer up at the trees and ask questions – Do they have leaves? How many? Are they colored? Are there any flowers or flower buds? – and you’ll find yourself practicing observing nature. Slowing down and looking closer will often reveal other small creatures – such as caterpillars – you might have otherwise overlooked!
Periodically, we offer training and informational session for interested volunteers who’d like to participate in this citizen science study at the Preserve - a great excuse to get outside and learn about the plants around you! Volunteers will be trained in identifying the trees and flowers on the trail, along with the phenophases of the target species – what leaf and flower buds, flowers, and seeds look like. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer for the phenology trail, email firstname.lastname@example.org.