Maritime forest are the 'climax community' for barrier islands such as Bald Head Island. This habitat with its mix of old growth trees, shrubs and more developed soils, binds sand providing the greatest stability and erosion control of any barrier island habitat. Live oaks (Quercus virginiana) are the largest of trees on Bald Head Island and therefore habitat providers for a multitude of species. It is for these reasons that the Conservancy monitors the maritime forest in an effort to better understand its natural cycles and identify threats to long term stability and health.
Bald Head Woods Nature Trail guide
Deer impacts on maritime forest vegetation of the Bald Head Woods Coastal Reserve are currently being investigated by Dr. John Taggart (UNCW) and his students. Twenty 10m x 10m plots, each consisting of an unfenced control and fenced exclosure, were established in 2006 and are sampled regularly to determin if significant changes have occurred in tree, shrub, or herb layers as a result of deer browsing. The results are being interpreted relative to past land uses, tree age, storm events, etc. Particular attention will be paid to canopy trees, primarily live oak and sand laurel oak, to see if long-term changes are likely to occur. Related research will be pursued such as light levels and seedling consumption within the forest.
Click here for Steven Brewer's report (2008)
Click here for Maureen Dewire's thesis (2011)