Significant changes in forests often occur over decades, even centuries, and thus subtle changes that are difficult to detect from year to year can accumulate into large changes over time. At Highstead we recognize that systematic and repeated monitoring is the only way to reliably track changes over time.
In a study published in the Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society by Highstead’s senior ecologist, Ed Faison, board chair, David Foster and several other collaborators, document a shift in the abundance of herb and shrub species in Highstead’s forest over an 11 year period (2004-2015). The authors measured the vegetation in 2004, 2009 and 2015 in a grid of square plots distributed systematically across the forest.
Non-native species such as Japanese barberry, multi-flora rose, Japanese stiltgrass, and garlic mustard changed the most dramatically. While the first three species increased in abundance, garlic mustard – a dominant species in 2004 – declined sharply. The decline in garlic mustard occurred without management and exemplifies the inherent unpredictability of nature, which often goes undetected without monitoring. This study provides potential guidance about non-native species on which to focus management efforts and which to leave alone.