KILMER ECOLOGICAL PRESERVE NOTES STATION 1: POWERLINE CUT This is an example of early secondary succession. Annual species typical of this stage might include Foxtail Grass & Peppergrass & Ragweed. Many of these plants may come from seed banks, where viable seeds present in the soil (sometimes for years) germinate when the time is right (often after a disturbance). Perennial species in this area might include Cinquefoil, Plantain, Strawberry & Dogbane. Some of these plants may exhibit a low-growing rosette of leaves, which allows them to avoid wind in open areas. STATION 2: 1929 OLD FIELD A more advanced stage of secondary succession is observed here. Different plants use different dispersal strategies (i.e. spread their seed). Little Bluestem is a grass, so it is wind dispersed. Cedar has blue berries, so it is bird/animal dispersed. Maple has “helicopter type seeds” which are wind dispersed. Oaks have acorns, dispersed by birds and animals. You will still see plants like Little Bluestem here in this phase of succession because enough light still reaches the ground. Eventually they will disappear as the ground becomes more shaded. STATION 3: SIDE TRAIL AND LATER SUCCESSIONAL STATE IN 1929 FIELD This area is characterized by more trees and less herbaceous plants. Poison ivy produces low quality fruits dispersed by birds. STATION 4: MIXED STAND OF WOODY SPECIES OF LATER SUCCESSION This is a progressively later stage of secondary succession known as secondary growth forest. Trees typical of this area are Red Maple, White Birch, and Pin Oak. Woody shrubs are now starting to be shaded out. STATION 5: RED MAPLE GROVE This is a moist area, preferred by Red Maples. Most are the same height and diameter because they are the same age, suggesting that the seeds all sprouted together following disturbance. STATION 6: CLEARING An exotic species is a species that is not native to this area. It may or may not be characterized as invasive. One exotic invasive seen here is Japanese Honeysuckle. This vine-like plant is considered invasive because it out competes and often kills native species. Cherry trees are also located in this area and produce a high quality fruit dispersed by birds and animals. STATION 7: MULTIFLORA ROSE, PIN OAK, and MOSSES Multiflora Rose is another exotic invasive plant. It produces low quality fall fruit that are a winter food source for Mockingbirds. Interestingly, Mockingbirds were not originally found here but their distribution has expanded northwards probably due in part to the rapid proliferation of this plant. You may also notice mosses growing along the trail here and throughout the preserve because they like moist, shady areas that are slightly raised above ground level where leaves tend not to accumulate. (They cannot survive under a dense leaf litter layer). Pin Oaks also like moist areas but are not shade tolerant. You can recognize Pin Oaks by their drooping branches. STATION 8: WINGED EUONYMOUS Winged Euonymous is an exotic, but is not yet considered invasive. It can be recognized by the papery brown “wings” along its branches. STATION 9: DOGWOODS & SUMAC No Sumac was seen at this station. If we had seen a Sumac plant with fruit however, it would tell us that it was a low-quality fruit, leftover from last year. If the birds don’t like it, it’s low quality, so it probably won’t all have been eaten over the winter. Dogwood however, produces a very high quality fruit (a red berry) important for migrating birds. These berries are eaten very quickly in the fall. STATION 10: 1930 OLD FIELD Again, no Sumacs were present. The most notable characteristic of this station is that illustrates an ecotone. An ecotone is a boundary between 2 different habitats (here, a forest and a field) where you will see much higher species diversity. This is because of the greater structural complexity of the area. The reason you see a field here (an early successional stage) is because there was a fire here in 1991. Early pioneer species here might include plantain, strawberry, goldenrod, and little bluestem. STATION 11: PINE GROVE Red Pines were planted here in 1930 in an attempt to grow them commercially, but none survived because it is too warm for them here (they prefer climates further north of here). STATION 12: FOREST The tree species found here are typical of a late successional forest: Shagbark Hickory, Ash, and Beech. You will see more dead trees on the ground in this successional stage and perhaps more “snags” or upright dead trees that are important for nesting birds and mammals. Snags are often characterized by holes of various sizes made by birds and insects. STATION 13: BUELL BROOK This stream is a harsh environment because it is small and shallow, which makes it poorly buffered from temperature changes, freezing, flooding, etc. It also receives a lot of nutrients and organic material from road run-off and leaves (the source of the brook is a spring located under the parking lot across the street from the preserve). It is also highly acidic (pH = 4.6) due to anaerobic decay of vegetation underwater and because it drains a mossy area of the old field. These conditions dictate the types of species found here, which include snails, crayfish, larvae of midges, caddisflies, damselflies, and stoneflies. Along the stream bank you can see the litter layer, soil, fractured shale, and shale bedrock. The underlying bedrock here is New Brunswick shale, formed 180 million years ago. Cedars do poorly here because it is a shady area and cedars are not shade tolerant. STATION 14: PRE-1840 FOREST The stage of succession seen here is known as a climax community. A climax community is thought to represent the endpoint of succession and be relatively stable, but this does not mean that it will not continue to change. It will just change more slowly than earlier successional stages. Trees found here include the American Beech (graffiti tree), Oaks (canopy), Maples & Ash (subcanopy), Dogwood (shrub layer) and spring ephemerals (herbaceous layer). STATION 15: SPRING EPHEMERALS Spring ephemerals are herbaceous plants that flower early in the spring before the canopy trees shade the forest floor. Common species include: Spring Beauty (white/pink flowers), Trout Lily (speckled leaves & yellow flowers), and Violets (purple flowers). Mayapple is a perennial spring ephemeral that flowers once every 2 years. Plants that will flower this year have 2 leaves, while those that will flower next year have only one leaf. The adaptive advantage of this is that the additional leaf in flowering plants provides the photosynthesis necessary to produce the flower and seed. STATION 16: CHERRY & SPICE BUSH & POISON IVY Spicebush is not seen at this station any longer but it is worth noting that the plant takes its name from the spicy smell of its leaves. While it may smell nice to humans, deer and other herbivores hate it, making it an effective defense tactic on the part of the plant. Spicebush would be found in the shrub layer. Cherry trees can be identified by the large horizontal lines on their bark. Poison Ivy is a shade intolerant vine that that defends itself effectively with a chemical irritant found throughout the plant (vines & leaves, year-round). STATION 17: LAWN & FOREST EDGE You can clearly see the forest layers: canopy, subcanopy, shrub and herbaceous layers from here. Note the lack of structural diversity on the lawn (and subsequent lack of biological diversity). It is a harsh environment with no buffers from wind, temperature, predators, etc. Succession does not proceed due to human intervention. STATION 18: ORIGIN OF BUELL BROOK As mentioned earlier, Buell Brook originates from an underground spring underneath the parking lot. The water here is warm (heated by the asphalt), oily, and full of sediment, making it devoid of plant and animal life. Compare this with how clean the water was after it traveled through the forest, illustrating how forests purify water.