As you travel up Fisherman’s Road, you are quickly surrounded by Caumsett’s upland forests. The trees you see make up one of two ecological community types: Coastal Oak-hickory and Oak-Tulip tree forests. Together they occupy approximately 820 of Caumsett’s 1500 acres.
According to the New York Natural Heritage Program, the acreage, extent, and condition of coastal oak-hickory forests in New York is declining due to fragmentation, residential and commercial development, heavy deer browse, and invasive species. As a result, the conservation status of this forest type in New York is classified as vulnerable to disappearing. You can help protect this valuable resource by not riding your bike on unauthorized trails. This activity breaks up or fragments the habitat, decreasing the number of native plants and animals that rely on this habitat.
Both forest types at Caumsett contain oak trees one of the most beneficial trees for wildlife. Oaks offer food, shelter, cover, and nesting sites for several animals. The branches, nooks, crannies, and hollow areas in oak trees afford protection from the elements, a place to rest, safety from predators, and nesting areas to raise young. Many animals feed on the small twigs, buds, shoots, and leaves of oaks, as well.
Doug Tallamy, professor of entomology at Delaware University and author of the groundbreaking gardening book Bringing Nature Home, noted that over 500 species of butterfly and moth caterpillars are supported by native oaks— more than any other tree species.
In fact, oaks support more life forms than any other North American tree genus. They attract hundreds of insects and invertebrates that feed on their foliage. These insects, in turn, attract insectivorous birds, reptiles, frogs, and mammals, developing a very dynamic food web within the forest. Because oak trees attract such a wide variety of insects, they are considered to be one of the most important trees for woodland dwelling birds. Of the food eaten by insects, birds and other animals, 75 percent comes from a few key genera — and oaks lead the list.
Do you see any acorns or oak leaves on the ground? An oak can produce three million acorns in its lifetime — tons of protein, fat, and carbohydrates and a mature tree can drop as many as 700,000 leaves yearly. The resulting litter is a habitat for beneficial organisms, and the tree’s canopy and root system are important in water infiltration, helping rain percolate instead of running off and purifying it in the process.