Date of this Version
Big Elk Creek Section, White Clay Creek Preserve consists of 748 acres of which more than 60% is hayfields and associated open areas. The remainder is forested slopes and floodplains along Big Elk Creek and several tributary streams. The highly fragmented nature of the forest means that edge habitat predominates. As a consequence, invasive shrubs and vines are abundant.
Overbrowsing by deer is also a serious problem which threatens the ability of the existing forests to regenerate due to the obliteration of native shrub and understory layers. Forest floor wildflowers have been reduced to small, widely scattered fragments.
Despite the highly human-modified landscape and the intense browsing pressure, populations of six plants classified by the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program currently are present. This indicates a loss of three species since 2002 when a survey documented nine PNHP-classified plant species at the site.
Another problem is created by heavy use of the site by equestrians. Trails are torn up and stream bank erosion has occurred where stream crossings have been established. One recently activated trail cuts through a population of Maryland golden aster, a Pennsylvania endangered plant.
- Reduce deer density throughout
- Work with agricultural lease holder to identify Maryland golden aster (Chrysopsis mariana) and downy lobelia (Lobelia puberula) sites and avoid mowing them at critical times
- Reroute recently established horse trail that threatens a Maryland golden aster subpopulation.
- Establish designated stream crossings for equestrian use
- Conduct site specific surveys of breeding bird activity in the hayfields and consider management adjustments to enhance the breeding success of grassland bird species.
Date Posted: 24 September 2018