Questions and Answers About the Trout Brook Valley Conservation Study
For a better understanding of the Trout Brook Valley Conservation and Management Plan, we have prepared this short question and answer page, based on excerpts from the report itself.
1. What were the objectives of the CAS research?
The objectives were to describe the physical and biological characteristics of Trout Brook Valley; identify threatened, endangered or at-risk species; and identify sensitive habitat areas. The plan describes strategies that can be applied to best protect these species and habitats, and it provides a framework of adaptive management actions and monitoring steps to evaluate whether the strategy is successful.
The goal is to allow Aspetuck Land Trust to maintain Trout Brook Valley in a natural state, balancing the need for conservation with the commitment to provide opportunities for passive recreation.
2. What were the key findings?
The study area hosts a remarkable array of species across multiple taxa, especially among birds and reptiles/amphibians. The survey identified key species of conservation concern among all the habitats. Priority habitats include mixed hardwood forest interiors, riverine upper perennial watercourses, seasonal pools, talus slopes, palustrine forested wetlands, palustrine scrub/shrub wetlands, the Orchard, and early successional habitats.
3. What are the priorities for balancing conservation and passive recreation?
Conservation and management actions will involve strict protection of the preserve’s wetlands and their critical upland buffer zones. Mixed hardwood and evergreen stands will be preserved and monitored using indicator species to assess their biological functionality. Habitat management areas will be maintained in an open, early successional state and may be expanded to improve their wildlife habitat value.
4. What unknowns or information gaps remain to be studied and determined?
The species richness of the area is expected to be even greater than what was detected, as some species and faunal groups are cryptic, nocturnal, ephemeral, live underground or exhibit a combination of these behaviors and thus pose detection and identification challenges.
The currently known butterfly fauna of Trout Brook Valley Preserve represents mostly widespread and common species along with a few unexpected vagrants. Additional surveys targeting specific microhabitats are recommended to further investigate the potential presence of uncommon species.
All of the wetlands surveyed were tremendously affected by the weather conditions in the winter and spring. Vernal pools were evaporating at a much faster rate than usual because of decreased precipitation and increased temperatures in comparison to normal levels. Future surveys in more climate-typical seasons may reveal additional amphibians in terms of both quantity and species diversity across Trout Brook Valley.
Fifteen species of mammals were confirmed. Systematic surveys likely will reveal the presence of many more. Approximately 40 mammal species are expected to occur within many of the habitats of the preserve.
Targeted surveys for moths, spiders or other invertebrates can be very rewarding. A wide variety of mushrooms was observed during site visits, but no organized inventory of the local species has been attempted. The aquatic habitat variety and quality warrants a detailed survey for crayfish and freshwater mussels, several of which are excellent habitat quality indicators and include state-listed species.
In short, the Trout Brook Valley Preserve offers tremendous potential for future biological inventories.
5. What kinds of public education should Aspetuck Land Trust focus on to best manage Trout Brook Valley?
It is recommended that Aspetuck Land Trust expand its outreach and education program to improve communication of conservation and management goals. An expanded outreach program should use a combination of approaches to reach the widest audiences. Notices or articles regarding the goals can be communicated via social media, blog posts, newsletters, listserves, direct mailings, trail side signs, and lecture series.
Once the public begins to understand the value of ecosystem services, they are likely to contribute to its preservation, or at least to respect the natural resources rather than exploit them.
6. How will ALT know its Trout Brook Valley management efforts are successfully working?
Feedback from the public could be one measure of success. Feedback can be solicited through response forms attached to or incorporated in newsletters, brochures, or e-mailings. Reduction in the number of complaints issued by stakeholders in response to preserve management decisions might be another measure of success.
Hard data collected as a result of any monitoring efforts that may be implemented within the preserve could measure the success of restoration efforts. Surveys could be generated and circulated to stakeholders to solicit feedback on restoration efforts.
Sightings data collected from birders could also be used as a measure of success. Data could be monitored over time to determine species richness trends across or within seasons, document occurrences (frequency and duration) within the preserve and illustrate trends.