The ecological communities in and around BNL have been classified according to the dominant vegetation and the habitat each provides, using the ecological classification system developed for New York State (Reschke, 1990). Dominant vegetation and associated consumers, as well as, the various habitats on and adjacent to BNL were identified during field surveys in December 1993 and again in May, June, August, and October 1994. Ecological communities were classified according to dominant species, density of vegetation, wildlife present, and degree of human disturbance incurred. Particular attention was focused on plants, shrubs, and trees that provided food (nuts, berries, and browse) for area wildlife. The way in which resident wildlife species use the communities was identified (e.g., nesting feeding, roosting, etc.).
Fifteen ecological communities have been identified on or adjacent to the BNL site. The on-site habitat is dominated by pine/oak barrens and predominantly deciduous forest. The pine/oak barrens are becoming a primarily deciduous forest as a result of fire suppression. Fire is both natural and necessary in the pine barrens as periodic sweeping across the landscape culls the forest of species that are not fire resistant, shapes the structure of the vegetative canopy and gives competitive advantage to the plants and animals that have evolved special adaptations or behavior to cope with the periodic stress of flames (Englebright, 1980). Deer browsing on site and hardwood [oak (Quercus sp.), locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)] competition have reduced the growth rate of pitch pines. Also, thick leaflitter layers, typical of areas where oaks are dominant and/or fire suppression has taken place, are unsuitable as seed beds for pitch pine (Forman, 1979).
The number of plants on site has been increased by human activities. Lawns, plantings, and plantations on developed portions of the property have increased the number of non-native plants on-site. Due to habitat restrictions, sandy soils, low nutrients, and periodic fires, relatively few non-native plant species have invaded the undisturbed pine barrens habitat. The on-site wetlands generally contain native species, as common reed (Phragmites australis), which has invaded the large herbaceous wetland on the Peconic River (east of the east firebreak). The common reed (Phragmites australis) appears to be spreading and consequently replacing native wetland vegetation, including cattail (Typha sp.), tussock sedge (Carex stricta), and spiked bur reed (Sparganium eurycarpum).
Five plant species identified on-site are protected in New York State under Environmental Conservation Law and New York State Regulation, which states that "no one may knowingly pick, pluck, sever, remove, or carry away (without the consent of the owner thereof) any protected plant". These species are the butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata), lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule), bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), and flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). Seven species of ferns found on the site are also protected by Environmental Conservation Law. They are the hayscented fern (Dennestaedria punctilobula), shield fern (Dryopteris sp.), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), Clayton's fern (0. claytoniana), royal fern (0. regalis), marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris), and Virginia chain fern (Woodwardia virginica).
A federally listed endangered plant, the sandplain gerardia (Agalinus acuta), has been reported in the Brookhaven area, though not on the BNL site (R. Zaremba, Nature Conservancy, personal communication). Searches in appropriate habitat (dry, sandy, sparsely vegetated clearings and roadsides) during the flowering season (August and September) revealed no on-site evidence of sandplain gerardia. Specimens of a related, relatively common species, the small-flowered false-foxglove (Agalinus paupercula) were found during the wetland delineation surveys. Large numbers of blooming plants were found in the open, herbaceous portions of wetland study area near the ecology fields.
Reference: December 1994; Sitewide Biological Inventory,
Last Modified: November 14, 2008