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Posts tagged ‘Forest Management’

The Dying Trees

If you run a WordPress blog such as this, you can access a statistics page which will provide you with all sorts of interesting information, such as how people got to your site.  I’m occasionally surprised and given to some self doubt.  One of my more popular posts was “Things to do on a rainy day” in which I presented a variety of ways of photographing wood on the side of an old bar(n) in Vermont.  I have a feeling that my title threw off a bunch of parents who, desperate, tried to google their way through a rainy day and probably found instructions for photographing wood to be less than helpful.

Sometimes though, you see something quite powerful.  Recently one of the Google searches that led someone to this blog was titled “Why are the trees dying at Quabbin Reservoir?”  That got my attention.  In fact, the situation isn’t quite that dire.  They are not all dying, thankfully, but the Red Pines are, due to Pine Needle Scale.  Pine Needle Scale is an invasive species, joining us from Pennsylvania and parts south, that is nearly always fatal to a Red Pine.  Increasingly, you can see its impact at the Quabbin forest.  (Click on the images for a better view.)

This was taken at Gate 52, inside Quabbin Park.  If you look carefully, you’ll notice a small deer feasting off the vegetation on this small island which lies just off Little Quabbin Island.  (This is what the folks at National Geographic call a “scale element.” It’s a tool to help the viewer get a sense of size.)  Here’s another view, this time of Little Quabbin Island itself.

What you see are small clumps of dying trees amidst otherwise healthy hardwoods. Each individual clump by itself doesn’t look so alarming. The real impact though, probably the impact that drove the sad Google search is experienced through a view of the big picture.  Here’s a small version of a very large panorama.

The real panorama, full size, is posted at Gigapan here.  Have a look.  We live in an amazingly small world, from an environmental perspective.  Some of you may have followed the story of the Mountain Lion that was unfortunately killed by a car in Connecticut.  In the Boston Globe this morning, it was reported, in “New England in Brief,” that the Mountain Lion was actually from the Black Hills of South Dakota, by way of Minnesota and Wisconsin.  It was tracked by authorities using DNA samples, presumably from its scat.  This was not a captive animal escaped.  This Mountain Lion made the journey in the wild.  It is one of the longest journeys ever recorded by a land mammal.

While taking this panorama, we were joined by one of the most beautiful birds we’ve ever seen in the wild, a Scarlet Tanager.

Of course I had the wrong lens on at the time, one of my strengths when it comes to wildlife, but you get the idea.  This little guy and his buddies will be leaving soon, for their winter home in Central America.  It is a small world indeed.

The Spring Forest

As I have complained about here before, creating compelling visual imagery of a forest is a challenge.  It’s not that forests aren’t visually interesting or fascinating in and of themselves.  Increasingly I’ve come to believe that there’s just too darn much going on.  So what you can do?  One approach, to  focus on chunks rather than the whole thing.  That’s what I’ve tried to do here.  We had the chance to visit a wonderful forest fully engaged in springtime a few weeks back, The Chamberlain-Reynolds Memorial Forest in Center Harbor, New Hampshire.  This is a wonderful working forest that borders squam lake. There were quite a few more birch trees than I’m used to seeing, which was a refreshing change from a photographic standpoint.  Now you’re definitely going to have to click on the images to appreciate the site.  Remember I’m simplifying here, so help me out.

As is the case for most of our forests, this was once farmland.

It is now largely utilized by the community for recreation and spiritual matters.  The trails are in terrific shape.  It has other jobs to do as well.

Just below this scene is an active loading area for logs.  Harvesting on a sustainable basis is taking place here on behalf of the owners, the New England Forestry Foundation.  The forest will survive I’m betting, in part because it’s got a job to do.  It’s been going on for some time.

For those who may have seen enough forest after a mile or so, there is a payoff at the end of the trail.

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.

My first Quabbin book, now available….

I’m thrilled to announce that my first book of Quabbin imagery, Water, Forest and Light:  A Journey Through the Quabbin, is now available.  This relatively short work includes over 35 of my favorite images, thus far…At this site, you can preview the book, and order if you’re so inclined. Thanks to Chris and Molly for their help on this project.  More to come….  (Click on the image below for more details and the preview site.)


A Journey Through t...
By James M. Hunt


Hadwen Arboretum – Neglected in Worcester? (Updated, November 6, 2010 and March 29, 2011))

(Update March 29, 2011.  There are some new developments going on at the Hadwen that you can read about here. )

(Update November 6, 2010.  This blog post is being updated in response to some very helpful information provided by Greg Doerschler, which you can find in the comments section below.) The Hadwen Arboretum is a small (I’m guessing four to six acres) stand of urban forest that sits at the intersection of Lovell and May St.’s, not far from downtown Worcester.  It’s a lovely spot and I’ve had the opportunity to walk it many times.

It’s a spot that’s obviously been used by the community for many years as a playground and a place of reflection.  The huge beech, oak and maple trees lend themselves well to climbing and play.  Initials carved into the bark suggest that play there was not confined to pre-adolescents.

It is, however, difficult to get good information on the Hadwen.  It is owned by Clark University but there’s little mention of the property on their web site, other than that is is currently being used as site for composting of landscape waste (not a bad thing in and of itself) and a community garden, which does present as a welcome site.

I had read about the Hadwen first in a book I discussed several months back by Evelyn Herwitz, Trees at Risk.  Obadiah Hadwen bequeathed the land to Clark in 1907.  A very civic minded gentleman Hadwen was involved with the Parks Commission.  Perhaps more importantly, he was a farmer of trees and on his eighteen acre property on Lovell St. in Worcester he raised a variety of trees brought there from around the globe including magnolias, siberian maples and black walnut trees from Japan

You can find a report on the property, created by what I believe was a student group or student project, here . As the unnamed authors of the report…CORRECTION:  This valuable report was created by Mr. Greg Doerschler and I’m very grateful for his communications in the comments section below. Note that this story is still unfolding, thankfully. The report confirms Evelyn Herwitz’ report that the University has been at a loss as to what to do with the property, though they have made a commitment to keep it.  Mr. Doerschler’s document also includes a very interesting map that plots the location of the tremendous variety of tree life there, or at least there as of 1978.  Species include Oak, Beech, maple, hemlock and birch as one might imagine, but also horse chestnut trees and magnolia trees as well. (American chestnut trees of course have all but disappeared from the eastern United States, due to disease.  I wasn’t clear whether or not the horse chestnut, which is European in origin, was also vulnerable to asian chestnut blight, the culprit in this case.  Nevertheless, the horse chestnut still presents an interesting and somewhat rare site, to my eyes.)

But it is not hard to find signs of neglect at the Hadwen, as the local species and native ground cover overwhelm the forest.

Trees compete for light and nutrients.

The winners come to dominate, and the losers pass on.

Hadwen’s bequest was “to be forever kept for the purpose of educating students in agricultural, historical and arboreal knowledge scientific and practical.  I adopt this course with the purpose in view of preserving the trees and plants growing thereon, being a portion of my life work, shall be preserved as an Arboretum, and an object lesson to assist students in the education of the science and art of arboriculture and improving the landscape.”  (From Hadwen Arboretum Historical Notes, page 1.)

We are reminded in touring this lovely but fragile spot that it doesn’t work for humans to walk away from the natural environment.  Hadwen created this environment, in collaboration with nature.  Once we have intervened in the environment, we’re in the game in perpetuity in many instances, unless we intend to encourage a piece of land to become “wild lands.” (More about that in an upcoming blog.)  Here we have an example of the legacy of a man, his personal vision, and its interaction with an environment.  While the property is owned by the University it has clearly been in the custody of the community for many many years.  The citizens are stakeholders in this business too, and speaking as one of those citizens, I’d like to see this lovely spot maintained for future generations.  That will, however, require some work.