Of Lines and Disease
I’ve been laid low by the nora virus for the past few days. I’ll spare you the details but I wouldn’t wish this thing on my worst enemy. Outbreaks are common among people who are crowded together in places like college campuses and cruise ships. My experience has given me plenty of time to contemplate a great many things including our visit last weekend to a desolate and snow covered Quabbin Reservoir. The weather was supposed to be nice, but I don’t believe Mother Nature got that particular e-mail. It was cold, the sky was white, and and the ground was white. They’ve had lots of snow out there. Photographically interesting elements were at first hard to find, until it became obvious that we were seeing lines on sheets of white paper. If we could capture some of those lines in the right configuration, we might have something interesting. Here’s a panorama from the area of the Winsor Dam, near the administration building. If you’d like a better view, click on the image.
If you’d like a much better view, you can also see the same image by clicking on this gigpan link. How many lines would it take you to make this image, taking as simple an approach as possible? I’d say eight or nine if you just stuck with the outlines of the hills. After all there’s not much else to see, other than the hills and the dam. (See if you can spot the two monuments in the gigapan version if you’re up for an exploration.)
But we also started to wonder about what we were seeing. These forests are both evergreen and deciduous. We know what happens to the deciduous trees. They lose their leaves and are represented by many of the smaller straight lines. (Including those will up your count of lines necessary to draw this panorama by a large factor.) But what about the evergreens? These would be largely pine trees. Millions were planted by the builders of the Quabbin, but you don’t see too many of them in this particular view. The forest looked a little different to us. A little more naked than in previous years. Of course it is impossible to know for sure what is going on because the snow pack is so deep, deeper than we’ve seen it. That can play tricks on the eye. But here’s another view, from the same trip, of a different location, this time the Enfield Overlook (so named because the lost town of Enfield once lay in the valley below.).
Although there are still stands of healthy pines visible, there are also visible the tell tale signs of pine needle scale, an invasive pest that represents a significant threat to pine forests. The scale in essence turns the green needles brown and ultimately can result in the death of the tree It is highly contagious. There is little that can be done to stop it out in the open. I first offered an image of the impact of pine needle scale last year.
This image was taken not far from the Spillway at the Quabbin. Here’s another image, taken from “Hank’s Meadow” at the Quabbin last year, across the eastern side of the Reservoir.
I did go back and review winter photographs from previous years to see whether or not the impact of the Pine Needle Scale observable now was radically advanced from last year, and frankly, it was not. The changes at least those I’ve been able to observe thus far, are incremental. This is one of the challenges we face in thinking about climate change. The chionaspis pinifoliae or pine needle scale is not native to this area. It’s moving up from the south, probably in response to climate change. The movement of invasive species from south to north is one of the many impacts we are seeing from global warming. But the impact is gradual. And in this case, it interacts with what were progressive efforts at forest management, the creation of pine planations in places such as the Quabbin. Putting many of the same species together in one place can create some significant challenges, challenges with which we have yet to come to grips. We’ll be following up on this issue in the next few weeks.