2010 Mast Survey: Feeling a little nuttier at Duck Creek

Mast surveys are done every year at Duck Creek to get an idea of the annual hard-mast production. Hard mast, or acorns, provide valuable food resources to wildlife and are the foundation of tomorrow’s overstory. This year’s acorn production looks better than it has for the last few years. There is a lot of variation from tree to tree, but overall it looks good for the red oaks. It will be interesting to see if there is a high rate of germination next spring. The mast production for overcup oaks, which are white oaks, were lower than last year. This can be somewhat expected after last year’s good crop.

Please click on the image below for more information about Duck Creek’s 2010 mast crop.


Click here for last year's mast survey post.

Just as corn crops vary from year to year, trees also vary in their crop production annually as well. Sometimes this can be attributed to environmental factors. Other times the cause for seasonal fluctuations are unclear. Since trees are long-lived species, their variance in acorn production may cycle over several years. For example, red oak species typically produce a good crop every two to five years. On the other hand, white oak species typically have a good crop every four to 10 years.

Because of the natural variance that occurs from year to year it is important to do annual inventories or surveys to figure out where we sit, not only for the short-term, but also how our current condition compares to long term trends. For example, waterfowl breeding population and habitat surveys give us an idea of how many birds we can expect during the fall flight. We use these numbers to help us decide on the hunting season length and bag limits so that we can enjoy the resource this year as well as in the future.

In the same way, mast surveys help us get an idea of the potential resources that will benefit wildlife throughout this fall and winter. It also gives us a better idea of the long-term trends and when we should try to take advantage of certain conditions (good mast year) to help with the recruitment of another cohort for tomorrow's forest. What I mean by helping out the forest is TSI work that I mentioned in a recent post (Turning a new leaf).

As you can see, our wildlife and forest management activities are intricately connected. We are fortunate to have a great staff in multiple divisions who work closely together to make sure we meet the needs of the resources and the public on Duck Creek CA. Hopefully, this information gives you an idea of what we are thinking about as we weigh our management decisions.