acorn study


A Study of the Impacts of Acorn Production on the Food Chain

Originated by Trudy Battaly, Drew Panko, and Ed McGowan
League of Naturalists, Bear Mountain State Park, NY

Protocol          Register       Acorn Identification     Enter Data        Results 

     Participant Registration          Tree Registration     


This Acorn Study is intended to provide both quantitative and qualitative data to help us understand the significance of acorns in the forest ecology.  Our goal is to establish a regional database of yearly acorn production, freely available on line for use by researchers and educators.


Our studies of vertebrates - Northern Saw-whet Owl (Trudy and Drew), Timber Rattlesnake (Ed), and Wood Rat (Ed) - have strongly suggested that the presence of acorns effects both mammal densities and predator densities.   The loss of the American Chestnut from our Northeastern forests has left the Oaks and their acorns as a primary source of winter sustenance for our small mammal populations and for all the predators that depend on them.

Volunteers Needed

We need volunteers to collect data from across the region, using the enclosed protocol.  The protocol includes acorn visuals and simple counts of acorns, so students of ecology at all levels can participate.  Please read the protocol and then register as a participant.

More about Why We Count

Before 1492 the woods of Northeast North America were full of mature trees which produced yearly crops of seeds and nuts.  The nuts produced in the fall - referred to as mast - was critical for winter survival of many species; particularly grouse, turkeys, deer, bear, foxes, mice and some groups of native Americans.  Within 400 years the human invaders managed to clear these forests from most land that could be used for agriculture, grazing or housing.  Some woodlots were retained to provide wood products and some rocky uplands were left uncut.

Around 1900, many eastern farms were abandoned and farming moved West (replacing natural grasslands).  As the eastern forests began to regrow, a fungus blight from Asia was accidentally introduced and wiped out the American chestnut in only 30 years!   See   The Chestnut had been the most important mast producer for both wildlife and humans and now only the Beech, the Hickories and the Oaks remained. 

The forest was impoverished and wildlife became dependant on Oaks because they are so numerous and widespread.  Oaks became the most important mast producer.  Every wildlife researcher or manager needs to know what the acorn crop is like in any given year to make sense of the other wildlife population variations.  Some states track acorn production to help set hunter "take" limits. 

We hope you'll want to become part of our effort to document the acorn crop every year.  You will be contributing to a database which we will make readily available to all researchers, including you.

                  Participant Registration          Tree Registration     

Useful Resources:             USDA Field Guide to Native Oaks          Vanderbilt Photos of Oaks by Species    
                                           Key to Oaks with Acorns                             The Million Tree Project

Last Updated 9/27/14