Importance and Issues
The mid-Atlantic region is primarily a forested ecoregion and all Mid-Atlantic Network (MIDN) parks have forests that form an essential part of the landscape and provide habitat for a diversity of wildlife. The current forest vegetation protocol assesses the status and trends of forest plant communities, and the impacts of stressors such as white-tailed deer, invasive exotic plants, exotic plant diseases and pathogens, and native forest pests, as well as the effect of acid deposition of forest soils. Evaluation of snags and downed woody debris provides information on additional important habitat.
Forest structure, composition, and dynamics are important measures of forest condition and health. Changes in these metrics can be indicative of stressors that may result in alterations in the future ecological integrity of the forest communities and the species that depend on them. For example, high mortality rates among canopy trees may signal a change in the dominant forest species; declines in seedling and sapling densities could indicate a reduced capacity of the forest to regenerate; or, increases in invasive exotic plant cover could result in the competitive exclusion of other herbaceous plants in the forest understory.
Other anthropogenic stressors may have a long-term effect on the forest communities, including acid deposition which can alter soil chemistry, disrupting nutrient cycles. Increased habitat fragmentation surrounding parks can weaken the ecological integrity of the forests, increasing their susceptibility to exotic plant and pest invasions.
- Determine the status of and trends in forest structure, composition, and dynamics of canopy and understory woody species.
- Determine the status of and trends in the density and composition of tree seedlings and selected herbaceous species that are indicators of deer browse.
- Detect and monitor the presence of invasive exotic plants, exotic plant diseases and pathogens, and forest pests.
- Determine the status of and trends in forest coarse woody debris and the availability of snags.
- Determine the status of and trends in soil Ca:Al and C:N ratios to asses the extent of base cation depletion, increased aluminum availability, and/or nitrogen saturation impacting MIDN forest soils.
Where We Monitor
- Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
- Booker T. Washington National Monument
- Eisenhower National Historic Site
- Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park
- Gettysburg National Military Park
- Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site
- Petersburg National Battlefield Park
- Richmond National Battlefield
- Valley Forge National Historical Park
Periodically, we publish reports that describe what we are learning in the field. These monitoring reports are more in-depth than resource briefs and include data analysis and a discussion of our findings.
Protocols describe how we monitor. They include a descriptive narrative of what we monitor and why, our field methods, how we analyze and manage our data, and more. All of our protocols are peer reviewed.
- 5 minutes, 54 seconds
How forest monitoring in eastern national parks helped reveal issues with long-term forest sustainability, and the successes parks have had in addressing the issue at Gettysburg National Military Park, Rock Creek Park, and Catoctin Mountain Park.
- 5 minutes, 48 seconds
Invasive plants and animals can disrupt ecosystems even in highly protected National Parks. Learn how parks are taking action with help from Inventory & Monitoring as the first alert to new pests and with Exotic Plant Management Teams that tackle invasive species treatment and removal.
For More Information
Contact Kate Miller, Quantitative Ecologist
Last updated: December 15, 2020