Bald Head Island Conservancy

Forest Health Programs

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Conserve

Forest Health Programs

The most distinguishing characteristic of Bald Head Island among North Carolina barrier islands is its vibrant maritime forest. Thus, it is critical to protect the forest by evaluating the primary threats that could alter its basic ecological functioning such as overpopulation of deer, invasive species, storms, and saltwater intrusion into the island’s freshwater aquifer.

The largest tract of intact maritime forest on Bald Head Island is the Bald Head Woods Coastal Reserve, which is managed by the North Carolina Coastal Reserve, part of the Department of Environmental Quality. the Conservancy acts as a partner and member of the Local Advisory Committee of the Reserve.

Maritime Forest Vegetation Surveys

In the past few years, BHIC has worked with collaborators to re-evaluate the health of the maritime forest after baseline vegetation data was collected. Forest plots were established in the early 2000s and fenced exclosures were set up to evaluate impacts of deer on forest vegetation but were damaged by a series of hurricanes (Florence, Dorian, Isaias) and no longer exclude deer. BHIC staff continues to repair and maintain exclosures as needed as well as evaluate species diversity, forest structure, and disease.

Bald Head Woods Well Monitoring

In 2017, BHIC began continuous depth-to-water (DTW) measurements in 16 wells associated with Bald Head Woods (BHW). Existing devices are maintained by Applied Resources Management. Bald Head Island Conservancy scientists verify the accuracy and precision of deployed devices monthly. Results are presented to the BHW Monitoring Advisory Group, whose partnership with the conservancy is to secure the ecological functioning of BHW, including all of the flora and fauna that comprise the forest.

White-Tail Deer Management

Bald Head Island Conservancy aims to quantify the island’s deer population and to analyze the efficacy of using the immunocontraceptive GonaCon for managing the population. Population control tools have been used to maintain the population at or below 200 individuals, as previous research indicated that this will maintain a healthy forest ecosystem. BHIC scientists conduct an annual summer spotlight count and fall camera index to provide estimates of the white-tailed deer population, sex ratios, and adult to fawn ratios. This data is then used to provide recommendations for white-tailed deer population management.