The Altona Flatrock sandstone pavement barren is a rare fire-dependent ecological community geographically located at the narrow overlap of jack pine and pitch pine species ranges. We studied fifteen year post-ice storm plant community change at the Altona Flatrock pine barren in Clinton County, New York. Prior research predicted plant community changes in the barren due to fire exclusion. Our study is the first to examine long-term changes in plant species composition of this pine barren community. In the overstory, pitch pine basal area and density remained similar (i.e., < 20% ) between 1999 and 2014, while density and basal area of red maple increased 67% and 109%, respectively. Jack pine overstory mortality was 100% between 1999 and 2014 in our plots. Few jack pine saplings (12.5 stems/ha) and no pitch pine saplings were present in our plots. However, a great density of red maple saplings (1,950 stems/ha) existed. Ground cover was dominated by huckleberry, Sphagnum spp., and Schreber's big red stem moss. With an absence of fire and the subsequent decreases in jack and pitch pine, this post-ice storm pine barren is developing into a boreal heath barren dominated by huckleberry in the understory with an overstory comprised mostly of red maple. In the absence of fire, or a suitable management alternative, this rare ecological community type may become extirpated from this Region. Further research could focus on successfully regenerating fire dependent pines to provide a more complete understanding of the ecological requirements and traits in this sandstone pavement barrens ecosystem in Clinton County.
Published in SUNY Plattsburgh's Scientia Discipulorum Journal of Undergraduate Research. Volume 8, issue 1, pages 8-21. 2016.