• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation
Rushton Woods Preserve is an 86-acre treasure with mature woodland, open meadows, a creek, and Rushton Farm, center of the Trust's Community Farm and Bird Conservation Program. The adaptation plan will focus on the wooded part of the property, which includes wetlands, riparian forest, and upland forest habitats.

Project Area

Map of Rushton Preserve
The wooded part of the property includes wetlands, riparian forest, and two major upland forest habitats. The Lowland and Riparian Hardwoods are heavily influenced by local hydrology, with plant communities that reflect the occurrence of seasonal flooding, erosion, groundwater seepage, or other local dynamics. Better-drained soils may support a variety of hardwood species suited to local conditions, often dominated by pin oak, swamp white oak, shagbark hickory, and sweetgum. Poorly drained or inundated soils can include silver maple, sycamore, boxelder, musclewood, blackgum, sweetgum, red maple, black ash, river birch, green ash, bur oak (rare), cottonwood (rare). The Central Oak-Pine forests are found in dry to mesic conditions across a variety of sites, from low to high elevations. Dominant species in these forests include drought-tolerant oaks, especially northern red, white, black, chestnut, or scarlet oak. Eastern white pine, red maple, sassafras, pignut hickory, and mockernut hickory may also be present in some site conditions. Pines (pitch, red, shortleaf, Virginia) can outnumber oaks on exposed ridgetops and outcrops

Management Goals

trees and understory plants

Management goals for both forest types are to 1) increase native species composition and structural diversity; 2) improve bird habitat; 3) maintain and improve the health of the riparian buffer; and 4) reduce invasive species by 70%. Property-wide goals also seek to create a sustainable trail system for equestrians and pedestrians and manage the local deer population to limit herbivory and other damage.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:

Challenges

Altered patterns of precipitation and potential dry periods will be hard on sensitive young plants and the added pressures from deer and competing invasive species will make native species establishment more challenging.
The combined volatility of heavy precipitation and flooding with periods of drought will make it more diffcult to improve and stabilize the soil.
Increases in pests and disease may deteriorate our forest canopy more quickly, opening up more gaps for invasive species to fill in.
A longer growing season will benefit existing invasives and southern invasive species migrating north may create new challenges.
Increased potential for wet trails and erosion will make alignment and grading even more important, particularly in the steeper sloped areas of the riparian forest.

Opportunities

A diversity of lowland riparian species are expected to respond positively to anticipated changes, creating opportunities to incorporate these species in our restoration where they are not currently well represented.
The adaptability of the riparian forest will allow us to maintain native species that can help stabilize and revitalize the soil.
An extended growing season and the ability of many of our native species to adapt well to climate change impacts will allow them to thrive once protected from deer.

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Area/Topic
Approach
Tactics
Lowland and Riparian Hardwood
Plant native species appropriate for the existing plant communities while also protecting and promoting the natural regeneration of the forest.
Protect young native plants from deer by caging and monitoring any new plantings, and install multiple small deer exclosures in several areas to allow natural regeneration to take place free of disturbance from deer.
Diversify the native forest species and monitor for new or changing pests and pathogens.
Restore riparian forests by managing invasive species and adding native plantings.
Identify and protect important wetland areas, while also looking for opportunities to enhance vernal pool habitats.
Employ best management practices and avoid or limit rutting or compaction. Remediate areas where runoff and erosion are most problematic, and investigate the potential to use berms or dykes to improve wetland habitat.
Treat and/or remove encroaching invasive species threatening native ecosystems, and monitor for potential threats from new species or vulnerable areas.
Recreational Trail Use
Repair degraded trails with durable, sustainable materials, or re-positioned to include switchbacks and grading to facilitate drainage.
Close problematic wet floodplain trails and/or add durable infrastructure, such as boardwalks.
Employ best management practices and avoid or limit rutting or compaction. Remediate areas where runoff and erosion are most problematic, and investigate the potential to use berms or dykes to improve wetland habitat.

Monitoring

Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
Survival of planted trees and shrubs
The change in stable wetland habitat
A decrease in invasive species
Durability of trail tread

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact
Patricia
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