Audubon Vermont: Green Mountain Audubon Center

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Planning
Audubon Vermont’s 255-acre Green Mountain Audubon Center, which was recognized in 2004 as an Important Bird Area, is managed for a diversity of wildlife habitats. The property is a demonstration site for land management practices that are bird-friendly, and highlights the co-benefits of these actions for carbon mitigation in forests.

Project Area

The Green Mountain Audubon Center (GMAC) is a designated Important Bird Area located in Huntington VT, along the banks of the Huntington River adjacent to the Birds of Vermont Museum. The 255-acre property operated by Audubon Vermont consists of wetlands, streams, meadows, and forests comprised of conifer and various northern hardwood species. The property has five miles of trails that wind through these various natural communities. Like many of the region’s forests, much of the property’s forests have established since agricultural abandonment took place around 100 years ago, with no evidence of management since that time. The forest is composed of mostly even-aged, multi-strata stands with an upper canopy of hemlock and a mid-story of various northern hardwood species. There is a 10-acre sugarbush with a sugar/red maple overstory and a red oak-hemlock midstory on the property that has been used for syrup production since the 1940’s, and is an important component of the environmental education programs at the Center.

Management Goals

The GMAC supports significant environmental education, scientific research, and outdoor recreation efforts on the property, in addition to maintaining and enhancing a mosaic of habitat types far all wildlife species. Wildlife management goals including managing for “responsibility species” as identified by Audubon Vermont’s Forest Birds Initiative, which manages for species that Vermont’s forests play a globally significant role in maintaining viable populations. Research goals include understanding the response of bird communities to forest management on the property so practices can be adapted accordingly. Other goals include low-impact recreation on the Center’s many hiking trails, and maintaining maple syrup production for educational programs.

In 2007, Audubon Vermont created a Management Plan for the entire GMAC property. The Plan identified several stands covering roughly 40 acres where active management would took place. Harvesting occurred recently on several of these stands, subsequently Audubon Vermont started to work on updating the Management Plan to identify future work across the property, including these stands as well as in the 10-acre sugarbush. Updates to the Management Plan will focus on the continued education and research goals of the GMAC, particularly managing for neo-tropical bird breeding habitat. Efforts to update the Center’s Management Plan recognizes that management activities to enhance the habitat value of forests for priority bird species also provides significant co-benefits for both climate adaptation to and carbon benefits to maintain and enhance forest health on the property.

Specific management objectives for the GMAC include:

  • Protect interior forest conditions for neo-tropical songbird breeding habitat
  • Increase sawtimber quantity, quality, and volume increment
  • Increase understory development
  • Reduce beech competition increase regeneration
  • Controlling invasive species and prevent establishment of new invasives, particularly along hiking trails and in disturbed areas

Climate Change Impacts

Important climate impacts for the GMAC include the impacts of increased winter minimum temperatures and decreased probability of lower lethal temperatures that may lead to range expansion and abundance of non-native insect pests such as hemlock wooly adelgid. Warming winters will also reduce snowpack increasing the challenges for winter harvesting and the risk of damage to soils and tree roots, as well as increasing deer browsing and the challenges to establishing regeneration. The increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather, particularly high wind events that will result in larger and more frequent natural disturbance and may promote the spread of non-native invasive plant species. Additionally, extreme precipitation events may cause soil erosion, particularly in areas adjacent to trails and roadways, leading to sedimentation of streams and wetlands.

Challenges and Opportunities

Some management challenges and opportunities identified as a result of climate change include:

Challenges

Soil erosion and windthrow impacts to recreation, necessitating re-routing of trails
Increasing deer browse, invasive worms, competition from beech, and invasive plant species limiting natural regeneration, particularly in sugarbush
Loss of some species from insect pests, such as hemlock and white ash, disproportionately impact habitat for priority bird species and sawtimber production

Opportunities

The opportunity to redesign trails to be more resistant to the impacts of extreme events
Non-native insect pests (emerald ash borer, hemlock wooly adelgid) may increase the abundance of large-diameter snags, cavity trees, and downed woody material
Increased natural disturbance from high wind events may create opportunities for increasing structural heterogeneity
Disturbance may increase the abundance of other species such as red oak

Adaptation Actions

Staff from Audubon Vermont and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources used the “Practitioner’s Menu of Strategies and Approach for Forest Carbon Management” to identify climate adaptation actions that enhance the ability of the forest carbon to sequester carbon and meeting additional management goals and objectives for the Green Mountain Audubon Center. Adaptation actions identified include: 

 

Monitoring

Monitoring efforts will focus on continued efforts for detecting and removing invasive plant species and erosion on trails, detection of non-native insect pests, and regeneration of tree species, particularly in harvested gaps.

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Last Updated

Monday, December 3, 2018