To protect and promote the pitch pine and the American beech, the researchers recommend prescribed fire. They felt that widely-spaced pitch pine is less likely to be attacked by southern pine beetles, and fire prepares the soil for seed germination. Further, prescribed fire helps to prevent wildfires, which could devastate rare ecosystems such as our maritime beech communities. However, the foresters’ recommendation for thinning is a generalization based on localities where pitch pines are dense. Since there are no dense stands on Fishers, thinning of the oak and maple overstory coupled with prescribed fire and/or removal of leaf and tree litter would be a possible route to encourage pitch pine regeneration.
Researchers observed a number of invasive species in the forest – such as honeysuckle, buckthorn, and briars – particularly along roads. Because these plants promote tick populations and present a significant threat to maintaining desirable tree species, the scientists recommended that the Land Trust prioritize a plan for invasive species reduction.
2. Work with state, county, and federal partners to treat and monitor the BLD-infested American beech. Build partnerships to increase forest health management capacity.
The American beech are currently under threat from BLD, an infection that can kill a mature tree in under 10 years. While there is no established treatment for the disease, experimental treatments are available and recommended to protect the beech on Fishers Island. Because the experimental treatments require multiple management projects, the researchers suggested partnering with organizations working on this issue. Possible partners include NYS DEC, Forest Health Diagnostic Lab, Connecticut Agriculture Experimentation Station, and Suffolk County Cornell Cooperative Extension.
3. Prevent the introduction of new, harmful invasive species by bolstering interception efforts at island entry points.
As it is generally easier and more cost-effective to prevent invasive species’ introduction than to control infestations, the researchers recommend that we increase invasive species prevention efforts, especially at the ferry terminal. Equipment coming from the mainland could transport invasive plant parts or soil containing invasive species; the invasive worm species currently making headlines are transported in soil, whether it be on equipment or in materials used for landscaping. Managing the worm populations within infested regions has so far proved impossible and the damage to the soil is irreversible. Egg masses for non-natives such as spongy moth and spotted lanternfly
are also often transported on outdoor equipment. The DEC Forest Health Diagnostic Lab could help us implement screening protocols for high impact forest pests to prevent the most noxious invasives from overtaking Fishers Island’s forests.