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Biology
Completed Project

Reclassification and Mapping of the Forest Communities on the Vassar Ecological Preserve

Dylan Finley ’17, Fate Syewoangnuan ’18, Keri VanCamp (Field Station and Ecological Preserve), and Jamie Deppen (Environmental Cooperative)

Information about the ecological communities in an area can help land managers make informed decisions about best management practices and aid researchers in selecting study sites. When tracked over time, this information allows users to observe changes in ecological communities and make predictions about how these communities might shift in the future. The purpose of this project was to create an accurate map of the forest communities on the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve (VFEP), gather comprehensive data about these communities, and compare the updated map to a map that was made in 1996. To create the map, provisional communities were outlined using earlier vegetation maps, LIDAR, and aerial photographs. Plots were centrally located in provisional communities to gather information about the species composition and environmental features. This data was used to identify patterns between plots and classify them as pre-existing community classifications from New York Natural Heritage and the United States National Vegetation Classification. The revised map had five forest classifications that occurred in earlier maps removed and thirteen new communities added, including four novel communities that were created specifically for the VFEP. The Northeastern Modified Successional Forest was the largest community not previously classified on the preserve, which was shown to cover an estimated 59.98 hectares out of 128.27 hectares of forested land. A dichotomous key containing the new forest classifications was created and used in an accuracy assessment of the map that produced an overall accuracy of 66.9%. Community boundaries were further shifted to reflect corrections based on the accuracy assessment, but future work will need to evaluate discrepancies in forest classifications on a per-class basis and complete the map by repeating the methods outlined in this project for wetlands and communities dominated by shrubs and herbs.