Why all the fuss for 3 candles on a cake? The fact that the National Capital Region Inventory & Monitoring Network (NCRN I&M) has now completed 3 full monitoring cycles of all 426 forest plots in NCR parks may not sound like much, but it is. Three sessions of intense measuring, identifying, and recording in the same location every 4 years, and having hundreds of plots spread throughout the region, allows us to start to see discernable direction in forest changes. (Not to mention that at a pace of a little over 100 plots per year, 3 cycles represents 12 years of effort...)
While we are just now beginning a deep dive into the data to try and peer into the future of our forests, there are several things we’ve already observed and quantified that can be shared right now.
Catoctin & Regeneration
NCRN forest monitoring began in 2006, three years before Catoctin Mountain Park began deer management in response to extremely poor forest regeneration rates. That means we were able to document some of the park’s lowest tree seedling levels, and then the response of seedlings to reduced deer browse pressure. From 2006-2009 to 2014-2017, tree seedlings multiplied more than 10x, from about 630 to over 6,800 per hectare!