Conservation and Management
Spruce-fir swamps are threatened by development (e.g., agriculture, residential, roads, mining operations), habitat alteration (e.g., excessive logging, ditching, filling, pollution/nutrient run-off, plantations), and recreational overuse (e.g., hiking trails, ATVs). Alteration to the natural hydrological regime is also a threat to this community (e.g., impoundments, blocked culverts, beaver). Spruce-fir swamps may be threatened by spruce decline due to acid rain deposition in high elevation examples (US EPA 2005). A few spruce-fir swamps are threatened by invasive species, such as reedgrass (Phragmites australis). Spruce budworm may be considered a threat to occurrences of spruce-fir swamp that experience extreme outbreaks, especially if it coincides with other stresses and reduces tree regeneration. The spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana) is a native insect that creates canopy gaps in spruce and fir forests of the Eastern United States and Canada. Since 1909, there have been waves of budworm out breaks throughout the Eastern United States and Canada. The states most often affected are Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (Kucera and Orr 1981). Balsam fir is the is the primary host tree for budworm in the Eastern United States, although white, red, and black spruce are known to be suitable host trees. Spruce budworm may also feed on tamarack, pine, and hemlock. Spruce mixed with balsam fir is more likely to show signs of budworm infestation than spruce in pure stands (Kucera and Orr 1981).
Conservation Strategies and Management Practices
Where practical, establish and maintain a natural wetland buffer to reduce storm-water, pollution, and nutrient run-off, while simultaneously capturing sediments before they reach the wetland. Buffer width should take into account the erodibility of the surrounding soils, slope steepness, and current land use. Wetlands protected under Article 24 are known as New York State "regulated" wetlands. The regulated area includes the wetlands themselves, as well as a protective buffer or "adjacent area" extending 100 feet landward of the wetland boundary (NYS DEC 1995). If possible, minimize the number and size of impervious surfaces in the surrounding landscape. Avoid habitat alteration within the wetland and surrounding landscape. For example, roads and trails should be routed around wetlands, and ideally not pass through the buffer area. If the wetland must be crossed, then bridges and boardwalks are preferred over filling. Restore past impacts, such as removing obsolete impoundments and ditches in order to restore the natural hydrology. Prevent the spread of invasive exotic species into the wetland through appropriate direct management, and by minimizing potential dispersal corridors, such as roads. Develop a plan to control or eliminate spruce budworm at sites where it is a problem.
Development and Mitigation Considerations
When considering road construction and other development activities minimize actions that will change what water carries and how water travels to this community, both on the surface and underground. Water traveling over-the-ground as run-off usually carries an abundance of silt, clay, and other particulates during (and often after) a construction project. While still suspended in the water, these particulates make it difficult for aquatic animals to find food; after settling to the bottom of the wetland, these particulates bury small plants and animals and alter the natural functions of the community in many other ways. Thus, road construction and development activities near this community type should strive to minimize particulate-laden run-off into this community. Water traveling on the ground or seeping through the ground also carries dissolved minerals and chemicals. Road salt, for example, is becoming an increasing problem both to natural communities and as a contaminant in household wells. Fertilizers, detergents, and other chemicals that increase the nutrient levels in wetlands cause algae blooms and eventually an oxygen-depleted environment where few animals can live. Herbicides and pesticides often travel far from where they are applied and have lasting effects on the quality of the natural community. So, road construction and other development activities should strive to consider: 1. how water moves through the ground, 2. the types of dissolved substances these development activities may release, and 3. how to minimize the potential for these dissolved substances to reach this natural community.
Survey for occurrences statewide to advance documentation and classification of spruce-fir swamps. A statewide review of spruce-fir swamps is desirable. Continue searching for large sites in good condition (A- to AB-ranked).
Regularly assess the presence and degree of impact that spruce budworm has on this community. Research composition of spruce-fir swamps statewide in order to characterize variations. Collect sufficient plot data to support the recognition of several distinct spruce-fir swamp types based on composition and by ecoregion. For example, southern New York examples tend to lack balsam fir (Abies balsamea). Confirm the identification and the dominance of red spruce (Picea rubens) vs. black spruce (P. mariana) at all sites.
- Carex arcta (Northern Clustered Sedge)
- Haliaeetus leucocephalus (Bald Eagle)
- Neottia auriculata (Auricled Twayblade)
- Polemonium vanbruntiae (Jacob's Ladder)
- Pyrola asarifolia ssp. asarifolia (Pink Shinleaf)
- Sylvilagus transitionalis (New England Cottontail)