Archive for March, 2019

Nestled along the Southern shore of Long Island, NY lies a series of barrier islands. With six in total, there is no definitive explanation for their formation but three main theories. The off-shore bar theory proposes that waves stir sediments from the sea floor that are deposited in a bar formation back along the floor, eventually accumulating enough to protrude out of the water and form an island. The split accretion theory suggests that breaker waves stir coastal sediments to form a split, or a barrier island attached to the mainland at one end. Over time, waves and storms would break this split to form a true barrier island. The submergence theory suggest that mainland wetlands are flooded and waves form beach ridges that stick out of the water, creating an island. Being that studies have disproved the first theory, the second or third theory are most likely how Long Island’s Barrier Islands were formed.

One particular barrier island is of critical importance to Long Island’s ecosystem because it contains both a state park and a national seashore. Fire Island, the largest, most central barrier island contains both Fire Island National Seashore and Robert Moses State Park. With no direct access to the Seashore, visitors must park in Robert Moses State Park and travel along a boardwalk until one hits the Fire Island Light House and Museum. This board walk takes visitors through woodland beach ecosystems and marshlands, and it is where the majority of my observations came from. Being that this is a beach and marshland ecosystem, very few plants were those which could be found in Vermont, so i had some difficulty identifying them. Throughout the walk I only noted three distinct woody plant species, with the rest being grasses and non-woody plants. The only species I am 100% certain on is Pitch Pine. The other two species I noticed I could not identify nor find any information on in my post-trip research. When walking through the marshland parts there was an abundance of phragmites and marsh grasses but no woody plants.

Apart from plants, I was also looking for any signs of wildlife along the boardwalk. Having barely even entered the boardwalk, I already observed tracks in the sand that most likely belonged to a deer. The tracks were large, and appeared to be a hoof with two toes. With deer being the only wild ungulates in the area, the tracks must have belonged to one. Additionally, I observed a pile of scat in proximity to these tracks, most likely also belonging to a deer. Although we did not see any deer in the park, we saw some on the side of the highway when we were leaving. Additionally, I was also on the lookout for any new bird species. However, the only birds i really saw were seagulls, which is most certainly not a new species.

After reaching the end of the boardwalk, we continued our walk onto the Fire Island National Seashore. Although there were no plants for me to identify here, there were definitely signs of wildlife. This includes broken shells on the hard surfaces, as many shore birds drop shelled mollusks on hard surfaces to access the meat inside. Additionally, I found some blue crab claws and carcasses. As there was not nearly as much to look at on the beach, I also took this as an opportunity to pick up some trash including a few cans, some straws, lots of single use plastic and a sandal.

I have to admit, I greatly struggled in classifying my spot in Centennial. My initial thoughts led me to a Northern Hardwood forest because of its composition. The location has some Sugar Maple, Beech, and Birch, all of which are species indicative of Northern Hardwood Forests. However, being that Centennial Brook runs directly through the center of my location, I began to think it could be classified as a forested wetland. More specifically, a floodplain forest because Centennial is certainly not a swamp or a seep. The first indicator that it may be a floodplain forest is the Brook. Secondly, the “hill” that i have been referring to along the Southeastern boundary is not so much a hill but rather a levee. Additionally, on the other side of the brook is a backswap, or low-lying wet areas on the floodplain away from the active channel. This backswap continues for a brief time towards the southwest and then deep into the Northeastern stretch of centennial. Although this area is not constantly filled with water, there were often shallow puddles and deep mud earlier in the year. Today, when i ventured N.E. out of my location a bit I noticed places with partially frozen over water. Therefore, I think it is safe to classify this land as a backswamp thereby confirming my suspicion that is area may be a floodplain forest.

Further classifying this Floodplain forest into a subcategory also presented some challenges. There are four subcategories of floodplain forests, with two being dominated by silver maple and one being adjacent to a lake, leaving only one option for my floodplain forest; Sugar Maple- Ostrich Fern Floodplain Forest. These forests are typically dominated by sugar maple, basswood, and boxelder. Being that all three of these species are present in (and maybe slightly outside) my location this would be a good classification. However, the presence of Ostrich Fern is also a crucial aspect to these ecosystems and being that it is winter with snow covering everything, there are not many ferns present. I do remember there being a considerable number of ferns earlier in the year, but I do not remember what they look like well enough to say if they were Ostrich Ferns. Therefore, I am going to say that my Centennial Location is most likely, but not definitely a Sugar Maple- Ostrich Fern Floodplain Forest.

Although I couldn’t find any picutres of the levee during the fall face on, it can be seen on the left.

In terms of phenological changes, I am starting to see signs of a coming spring. During my last visit, I noted the complete silence throughout the forest. This time, though definitely quieter then autumn time, I began hearing some of the usual sounds of the forest especially some bird calls. Additionally, the brook was entirely frozen over upon my last visit while I could hear the sounds of running water this time around (though I could still cross without fear of falling in). Another interesting change i noticed was a heavier presence of cone bearing evergreens although I do not know if this has any correlation with the impending spring. However, winter is still here and snow is still covering just about every inch of Centennial making any observation of substrate/hydrology interaction virtually impossible for the time being.

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