Too Many Deer
Forestry experts advise that exclosing the deer from the forest is the best option for Hillside Woods. Deer pressure is too intense for our severely degraded woods to recover. More than any single species (except humans!), deer have disrupted Hillside Woods' ecological balance. A healthy forest has baby trees and other plants. Our forest floor is either bare, or filling in with invasive species.
See Hastings gov's deer page for more info.
11% of Hillside Woods is American beech, and they are infected with beech leaf disease, an emerging tree malady. Every beech will likely be dead in 5-7 years. There is no known cure. Meanwhile, 20% of Hillside Woods is Norway maple, an ecologically disruptive invasive species. Ailanthus, another invasive tree species that draws spotted lanternflies, is encroaching.
Links click to reports by HHS student Róisín O'Flaherty
Deer have nibbled most of Hillside's understory down to the nubbins, leaving a blank canvas for colonization by invasive plants. These don't offer sufficient habitat to support a diverse range of forest fauna. What follows: changes to soil pH and its mycorrhizal fungi, what scientists have determined provides a matrix for healthy trees.
Sometimes it's the little things. Invasive jumping worms, native to eastern Asia, are chewing through Hillside Woods' leaf litter, causing topsoil to wash off in our increasingly heavy rainstorms. This erosion makes it especially difficult for vegetation to regenerate. Read more in this article by HHS student Benjamin Seto-Glick.