Each natural community faces ecological threats that could change its defining features, leading to its decline.
Non-Native Invasive Plants
sandy loam of the Chestnut Oak / Mountain Laurel Forest is not as hospitable to as many non-native invasive plants as some of the other natural communities in Rock Creek Park. Besides, dense colonies of native mountain laurel can make it difficult for all but the most hardy weeds to compete for root space and sunlight here. (* indicates non-native)The coarse, dry,
However, where trails cut through this community, or where it borders residential neighborhoods, extra sunlight and rogue seeds can make their way into this community, giving other plant species a foothold. This is part of what is called edge effect.
Diseases, Pests, and Other Threats
Current and potential ecological threats for the Chestnut Oak / Mountain Laurel Forest in Rock Creek Park include these:
- Excessive deer browse: decimation of shrubs and oak seedlings
- Lack of fire: encroachment by fire-sensitive species like American beech; disease
- Gypsy moth: damage to oaks
- Dogwood anthracnose: decline of flowering dogwood
- Foot and horse traffic: erosion due to sparse field layer and thin duff (Exception: where mountain laurel shrubs add a protective layer.)
- Very hardy non-native invasive plants: competition with natives for soil nutrients, sunlight, and pollinators; degradation of animal habitat
Click here to learn more about some of the ecological threats to the natural communities of Rock Creek Park.