Oak fern monitoring

Oak fern monitoring project

Lead Researcher: John Neumann, MSc

Oak fern is an easily recognized fern that is often used as a soil moisture indicator species (Figure 1). Indicator species, such as oak fern, that are closely associated with variables linked to tree growth can be tracked over time to provide local information about the rate of climate change, and to inform decision support tools for forest managers.


Fig.1 Oak fern. Image from Wikimedia Commons (Walter Siegmund, photographer)

Year one activities (2011-2012)

During year one, four permanent oak fern transects (Figure 2.) were established in SBSmk1 and SBSwk1 north and south aspects.


Fig.2 Oak fern transect #4, north aspect

Oak fern cover was measured and graphed for each transect. Soil moisture measurements and soil horizon descriptions were made at intervals along a subset of the transects. An example of the oak fern distribution on a south facing aspect is shown below (Figure 3).


Fig.3 Oak fern cover in SBSwk1 on south aspect, summer 2012

Year two activities (2012-2013)

Soil moisture measurements and soil horizon descriptions were collected for the four new transects. In addition to oak fern, Devil’s club and horsetail coverage was collected on all transects. Moisture sensors (EC5) were installed in the rooting zone in the middle, at the upper edge, and 5m upslope of the oak fern community at all eight transect locations (Figure 4).


Fig.4 Oak fern transect #8, south aspect microclimate station

Results and analysis

With two year’s data on oak fern cover in the SBSmk1 and wk1 sites, it is now possible to compare cover from Year One to Year Two. The following figure (Figure 5) depicts oak fern cover in summer 2012 and 2013. Oak fern cover increased on all four transects between summer 2012 and 2013 (Table 1).


Fig.5 Oak fern cover in SBSwk1 on south aspect, years 2012 and 2013

Information dissemination

Construction of a weather station: taking microclimate measurements for the assisted migration projects