Wildlands & Woodlands Website

Highstead works to inspire curiosity and build knowledge about plants and wooded landscapes in order to enhance life, preserve nature, and advance sound stewardship practices.

Documenting forest change at Highstead

Ecology Research > Forest Change

Interns at plot

Permanent forest plots were established at Highstead in 2004. In each plot, all trees are measured and identified, and all shrub and herb species recorded with their percent cover abundances estimated. Plots are monitored every 5-10 years.

Data gathered document changes in vegetation structure and composition resulting from forest succession, arrival of new species, and a suite of forest disturbances (e.g., windstorms, forest insects & disease, and deer browsing).

Some important changes to Highstead’s woodland between 2004 and 2015:

Maple Forest

  • A dominant non-native species, Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) arrived between 2004 and 2009

  • Non-native shrub cover increased by almost four-fold between 2004 and 2015

  • Graminoids (grasses, sedges, rushes) replaced forbs (wildflowers) as the dominant herbaceous cover between 2004 and 2015

Oak forest

  • The dominant native shrub, mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) declined significantly between 2004 and 2009

  • Tree basal area increased between 2004 and 2009


Faison, E.K., Foster, D.R., Von Holle, B., Rapp, J.M. and Moore, S., 2019. Nonnative vegetation dynamics in the understory of a fragmented temperate forest. The Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 146: 252-261.