Class of 2014
Byram Hills High School
Mentors: MRG Staff, Stan McGuigan
Project: Restoration of Locally Threatened Wildflowers to a Post-Agricultural Forest
Project Status: Ongoing
Project Description: The restoration of wildflowers to a suburban forest is important because there has been substantial change to forest communities in and around Westchester County, NY, which may make the restoration of once thriving wildflowers potentially problematic. Such changes include browsing pressure from highly abundant white-tailed deer, competition with invasive species, and historical changes to the soil characteristics as a result of previous agricultural land use. These changes have led to drastic declines in many forest wildflowers species and have made it difficult for wildflowers to recolonize areas that they have been extirpated from. In this study Michael reintroduced four species of native plants — white trillium, columbine, tiarella, and wild ginger — in a post-agricultural forest where these species have been extirpated within a deer exclosure where moderate invasive species control was performed. By tracking vital rates to the populations of the different species, data were collected to build matrix projection models that were used in population viability analyses for each species. The duration of this two-year study prevented full analysis of all species planted since the length of the life cycle often exceeded that of this study. However, wild ginger exhibited clonal reproduction at rates that would lead to rapid population growth. The other three species demonstrated strong adult survival and flowering rates when deer were excluded, thus showing a good potential for viability in future years if deer pressure can be alleviated. This indicates that the soils in this forest were not so disturbed as to prevent the reintroduction of native species of wildflowers and indicate that deer pressure is the likely primary limiting factor for native wildflowers. Future studies must determine whether other factors prohibit reintroduction of wildflowers, particularly interactions and competition with invasive species.
Michael’s plots will be monitored in perpetuity every spring and summer to observe the success of his reintroductions.