Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Habitat at Mountain Lakes
The contrast of late winter snow reveals otherwise hidden aspects of the Mountain Lakes Preserve. Seepage areas are common where water warmed by the ground emerges at the base of slopes. These seem to be a favorite hangout for woodcocks this time of year.
These stark forms reveal the ecological dilemma at Mountain Lakes. Invasive species + heavy deer browsing = marginalization of native species. The larger shrub to the left is multiflora rose. Deer don't like its thorns, so eat native species instead, like the diminutive silky dogwood to the right. You can see the way the dogwood has sent out lateral shoots in response to past browsing.
As the deer herd is brought back into ecological balance, native shrubs like silky dogwood and spicebush will make a comeback in the preserve, providing a more varied diet for pollinators and birds.
A walk down the main driveway leading into Mountain Lakes provides a dramatic view of how complete has become the domination of one exotic species--multiflora rose. Walls of thorns rise on either side of this snow-covered path, ready to punish any man, woman or beast wishing to explore beyond the beaten path.
With the help of a Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program grant from the USDA, the Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS) will begin removing the multiflora rose and other exotic invasives, allowing suppressed native species a chance to grow. FOPOS is also beginning to propagate local native species from cuttings and seed to transform these thorny pathways into a showcase for native wildflowers. Volunteers are encouraged to join in this effort. For more information, contact me by email from the "About Me" section at the top of this blog.