Welcome to the biological monitoring page of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) Forestry Program. From this webpage you can scroll down to learn more about forest inventory efforts and conservation management practices, or you can access a searchable biological monitoring database. This database will allow you to access biological monitoring data on plants, animals (primarily songbirds), vernal pools and other resources that has been collected on various DFW properties. These data may be of interest to anyone who:

  1. Has visited particular DFW lands and wants to know more about natural resources on those lands;
  2. Plans to visit DFW lands and wants to know more about the plants and animals they can expect to see; or
  3. Is curious about the types of natural resource information DFW collects on its lands.

There are several survey types housed in the database:

  • Allowable Harvest Forest Inventory - Data from the statewide forest inventory conducted by the Forestry Program are available on for each DFW property.
  • Bird Surveys - A variety of different types of bird surveys are available from the database including: Avian point count surveys, breeding bird surveys, avian research projects, and post-harvest bird surveys. Some of these surveys are summarized in simple PDF documents. When they are selected, you will have the option to download the PDF document to your computer. Many of the breeding bird surveys are also contained in a database maintained by the Upland Program. When such a survey is identified, you will be directed to the data within the Upland Program database.
  • Natural Community Field Form 3, Basic Vegetation and Habitat Information - The Forestry Program Form 3 database contains all Natural Community Field Form 3 records that were collected during the forest inventory conducted on all MassWildlife fee properties. It contains detailed information on the understory plant species found at each plot. This information is also contained in a Forestry Program access database. When a Form 3 survey is identified, you will be directed to the data within the Form 3 database.
  • Insect Survey - One hemlock woolly adelgid survey was conducted at the JC Phillips Wildlife Sanctuary. In addition, a variety of butterfly surveys were conducted by the Upland Program and can be found in the Upland Program database. When such a survey is identified, you will be directed to the data within the Upland Program database.
  • Other Plant Surveys - We placed the vegetation surveys conducted by the Upland Program in this category. When appropriate, it will indicate if the vegetation survey data in the Upland Program database and direct you to the data within the database. In addition, there was an oak regeneration survey conducted at Hiram Fox WMA in 1990 and 1992 and some additional surveys conducted at Fox Den WMA in 2004 and 2006.
  • Post-harvest Plant Survey - These surveys are conducted by the Forestry Program in years following timber harvests on properties.
  • Pre-harvest Plant Survey - These surveys are conducted by the Forestry Program in the months prior to a timber harvest.
  • Priority Natural Community Survey - The majority of these surveys document the number of acres of rich mesic forest present on several MassWildlife properties. A brief summary of the results of this rich mesic survey are accessible through this database. In addition, a survey of black gum trees on Oakham WMA is also included.
  • Vernal Pool Survey - All potential vernal pools present on MassWildlife properties were inventoried between 2002 and is ongoing. It was determined whether the vernal pools were functional or not. A brief summary of the results of this survey are accessible through this database.

In addition to the comprehensive Forest Inventory that is occurring across all DFW lands, individual harvest sites are intensively monitored for plant species composition prior to and after harvest activities so that harvest goals for regeneration of particular tree species and structural habitat conditions can be assessed. DFW is also working with EOEA and DCR on long term environmental monitoring on harvested lands and forest reserve lands (this effort is described below).

Pre- and post-harvest monitoring provide data on occurrence and abundance of plant species in the forest overstory and understory, and emphasize location of both rare and invasive plant species. Vegetation monitoring is conducted by DFW Forestry Program staff and/or qualified ecologists hired as temporary vendors.

Pre- and post-harvest monitoring consists of:

  • Conducting a thorough walk through survey of each stand and record all plant species occurring in each stand. Upon completion of the survey in each stand, assign a frequency of occurrence (occasional, common, or abundant ) and cover (sparse, moderate, dense) estimate for each plant species. For tree species, indicate relative abundance separately for the overstory (tree canopy) vs. the understory.
  • Recording a GPS location for any state-listed and/or invasive plant species encountered. If a state-listed species is encountered, the appropriate NHESP observation form must be completed.
  • Use GPS settings that will provide DFW with an ESRI format point shapefile in MA State Plane meters, NAD83, WGS84 datum. The GPS receiver should be set to average at least 30 points per location.

DFW will post summaries for pre- and post-harvest surveys as they become available.

Harvest sites that contain rare species or priority natural communities are managed in compliance with science-based restrictions designed to conserve the species or communities in question. Conservation Management Practices (CMPs) for rare species have been developed by the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program and EOEA to guide harvesting operations in areas that support certain state-listed plants and animals. Where CMPs do not exist for particular rare species that occur in a harvest site, the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program provides specific mitigation designed to conserve those species. Typically, mitigation involves restrictions on harvesting levels and environmental conditions under which harvesting machinery can be operated.

Harvest sites that contain invasive exotic species are managed by using mechanical and/or chemical means to reduce or eliminate those species. GPS waypoints are recorded when invasive plants are located to insure that subsequent control measures are effective. Follow-up monitoring after timber harvests is used to detect any reoccurrence, and additional control measures are taken when necessary.

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA) in collaboration with faculty and students at the University of Massachusetts and scientists from private conservation groups are developing a long-term ecological monitoring (LTEM) program to measure and analyze critical environmental indicators on state-owned lands. Data will be collected in reserves where no timber harvesting is allowed as well as in sustainably managed forests. Information obtained from this monitoring program will be used to guide environmental and conservation policies and to inform on-the-ground forest management decisions. Data from the reserves also will serve as the reference condition for the study of environmental disturbances such as climate change and atmospheric deposition, insect infestations, pathogens, and catastrophic wind or damaging ice and snowstorms.

The LTEM program will respond to questions such as: Will harvesting this forest negatively affect water quality or wildlife? Is climate change causing changes in the composition or functioning of unmanaged reserves? In what ways are invasive species affecting biological diversity? As of July 2006, the proposal is to base the monitoring on several data sets: landscape scale forest type and canopy gaps from aerial photographs; plot scale CFI data including tree species, DBH, status (including snags, and woody debris) and additional measurements; and plant scale temporary plots for rare herbaceous plants, lichens, and invasive species. The specific questions to be answered by analysis of data collected in reserves include: Has the reserve forest shifted to late successional species and uneven-aged structure over time? What is the role of natural disturbance in shaping the forest landscape? What is the location, distribution, and area of openings caused by disturbances - wind, insects, fire? What is the regeneration response in areas affected by natural disturbance? Are non-native species increasing or decreasing in reserves?

Following completion of the comprehensive inventory described above on any forest reserve sites, periodic re-inventory will be essential to document forest structure and composition. At present, DFW anticipates re-visiting sample locations in reserves once every ten years.