Ecologist Henry W. (Hank) Art conducted extensive studies on the vegetation on Fire Island from the 1960s to 1990s. Join him as he revisits his old stomping grounds and discover how the forest has changed through the years.
Explore the Sunken Forest Nature Trail with an ecologist who has been studying this globally rare habitat for more than forty years. Currently a professor of biology and environmental studies at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Henry Warren Art conducted his Ph.D. research in the Sunken Forest from 1967 to 1970. From these studies, he prepared a science monograph for the National Park Service (NPS), Ecological Studies of the Sunken Forest, Fire Island National Seashore, New York, published in 1976. This little green book, long out of print, has remained an important resource for interpreters conducting ranger-guided tours of the Sunken Forest and for researchers, students and naturalists studying barrier island ecology.
Art continued his association with Fire Island, returning between 1985 and 1995 to conduct follow-up research for the NPS. During this time period, Art set up vegetation plots in the Fire Island Wilderness and by the Fire Island Lighthouse, in addition to his previous Sunken Forest plots. Art's last visit to Fire Island was in 2002, when he noted the disappearance of most of the salt marsh that had existed between Sailors Haven and Oakleyville in the '60s. The island had narrowed significantly by then, leaving some of his initial study plots inundated by the Great South Bay. The loss of understory vegetation in the Sunken Forest was perhaps the most striking observation. Art's data is being used as a baseline to give park managers an idea of what the forest looked like when the Seashore was established. In 2011, park biologists began re-surveying the plots that Art established in the 1960s, providing an additional insight into how the forest has changed over the past half-century.
Take the 9:30 a.m. ferry from Sayville to Sailors Haven and meet at the Sailors Haven Visitor Center to join this tour.More »