Bald Head Island Conservancy

Forest Health Programs

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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

The Bald Head Woods Aquifer Monitoring Plan was established in 2015 as a partnership between the Village, the Coastal Reserve, and the Conservancy, to assess impacts of water withdrawals by the Village on natural resources including swale and forest vegetation. A 5-year plan was designed to generalize the effects of water withdrawals by assessing impacts on these resources. In 2017, BHIC began monitoring wells throughout Bald Head Woods to verify the accuracy and precision of automated monitoring devices. These results are presented to the BHW Monitoring Advisory Group.

White-Tailed 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 is predicted to 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. Learn more about this project.

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