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Posts tagged ‘Tree Disease’

The Dying Trees – III

We returned this week to Quabbin Park, in Belchertown and Ware, Massachusetts to continue exploring the story of the dying Red Pines in New England Forests.  Just to recap, Quabbin Park is the more or less officially designated visitors area for the Quabbin Reservation, home of the massive and wonderful reservoir that sustains much of eastern Massachusetts.  The accidental wilderness there was created in part by the rebirth of natural forests once farming there ceased, but also by the planting of millions of pine trees to aide in the natural filtration of the water.  In places, the population is quite mono-species and as such, is vulnerable to infection.  Invasive species moving north as the climate warms attack, the forests, the most notorious being bittersweet, that overwhelming vine that is now common place in our forests, draping itself around the trees.  (Think back, if you’re a New Englander, it mostly wasn’t there when you were a kid.  I’m from Virginia and it wasn’t even a big deal there.)

The second most obvious invasive species in the Quabbin area is Red Pine Needle Scale, on loan from Pennsylvania and further south.  It attacks Red Pine trees only but makes really quick work of them. Here’s the forest near the Winsor Dam spillway.  Three years ago, these pines were all nice and green.

The stand of Red Pines along the red side of the road, for about 100 yards or more in, is now dead.  It clearly has become a potential safety hazard, and the Division of Conservation and Recreation who managers the land in the Reservation is now taking those trees down. I’m going to switch to black and white imagery here, as, at least for me, it captures more of the mood of the work in process. Things begin to get a bit otherworldly.

They are making progress it seems.  This is seriously difficult work, requiring heavy equipment and traversing some challenging landscapes.

Your taxes and water bills at work…  As I’ve stated in previous posts though, I don’t see that there is any choice here.  We should keep in mind though that to the extent climate change or other human actions play a role in these species migrations, our bill will continue to rise.

That being said, life goes on, sometimes in spite of our best efforts.

The Dying Trees – II (And it won’t be the last)

I’ve talked on several occasions about the impact of Red Pine Needle Scale at the Quabbin Reservoir, including here if you’d like some more background. In essence, Red Pine Needle Scale infects and quickly kills Red Pines.  In the Quabbin forests, inside the Reservation there are numerous stands of Red Pines.  They are all vulnerable and many are dying.  This is taking place in part because of the migration of the Scale into New England, from south of here (perhaps due to climate change, as some believe), and in part because mono species cultures are vulnerable to attack.  (We should think about this, whether or not there are too many people in one place or too many cows/chickens in a barn. The Asian Long Horn Beetle which is currently attacking Worcester, Massachusetts is successful, in part, because too many maples were planted in the city after Worcester was victimized by a massive tornado.  It did seem like a good idea at the time.  It’s just too easy for any sort of disease to spread from one member of a species to the next.)  The impact here is quick and intense.  This was, only about four years ago I’d say, a very normal and healthy looking stand of Red Pine.

Now, the stand is dead.

This was taken, last week, in August.  Of course, pine trees aren’t supposed to be barren at any time of the year.  The stand is about 100 yards deep it would appear.  Though there is pain in the tops, where the needles belong, there’s still a hint of beauty down below.  If you just looked down, you might not notice anything.

DCR, the Division of Conservation and Recreation, is now removing the stand.  They have to it seems to me.  One strong down draft and the highway that runs through Quabbin Park would be littered by these dead trees, and someone could get hurt.  The process has just begun it appears.

Even in the midst of this we can already see what nature has in store.

We cut the trees, then we replanted, now nature is taking them down.  Our environment is very dynamic and subject to change.  We play a role in that change, like it or not.  Red Pine Needle Scale will change the face of the Quabbin Forest.  I’ll follow up in a few weeks to see what this area looks like after the trees have been removed.

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.

The Biggest Threat to Quabbin Forests

There’s significant controversy in Massachusetts now regarding forest management and threats to the wonderful resource that is our forest. Unfortunately, that threat can come in many forms.  I was out today at Hanks Meadow, inside the Quabbin Park.  It’s a lovely spot even on a cloudy windy day, but here’s what we saw looking across the Reservoir.   This is Pine Needle Scale.  An invasive organism that is killing certain types of pine trees throughout the Reservoir Watershed.  Where do such hazards come from?  Invasive species and diseases represent a growing threat to our natural resources largely because of domestic and international trade and travel.  (Just ask the folks in Worcester Massachusetts whose trees were disseminated by the Asian Long Horn Beetle, which is carried in cargo ships in wooden palettes.)   More on the hazards of  being a tree in upcoming posts.  This is a panorama so you’ll have to click on the image to view it properly.

Here’s another image from a different part of the Quabbin Park, near the Spillway.

This thing is quite serious.  That is NOT fall foliage.