Another day in the woods

Old charred pine stump
Old charred pine stump


I’ve studied my west woods for several years now often going on long day hikes to collect data on soils, tree cover, shrub and herbaceous plant species, wetlands and wildlife. I’ve done lots of reading on the native trees and their relationship with the soils and climate. Restoration of white pines here has been on my mind for a while. This past Saturday I made another trek to collect data.

To track the changes to forest cover I’ve looked at aerial photographs going as far back as 1939. On adjoining state forest where logging has recently occurred I’ve counted growth rings on cut the trees. The photos and tree ring counts are evidence that soon after the 1918 fire the forest began to re-grow. The earliest photo from 1939 shows a young forest which appears as a light gray area. Some texture is apparent seen in this gray area which looks very similar to other brushy areas of deciduous shrubs and trees. Scattered in the gray are some small black spots which are spruces. In this same photograph I can pick out the two sedge wetlands, the black ash/yellow birch swamp, and the black spruce bog. The tree cover is not as dense then as it is now but the boundaries of these forest and wetland habitat types are visible. What is also interesting in these photographs is that my section of the river has almost the same meanders then as it does now. Even the core of the dense shrub growth along the river was present in 1939.

The different publications on northern mesic forests show that white pine was an important part of that forest type. One of the purposes for last Saturday’s hike was to count old white pine stumps and live pine trees. I wanted to see how many of each were there and where they were most concentrated. Once placed on a map I could tell where the best places to plant new trees might be. So far I have counted 12 live pine trees and 11 charred stumps. The blow down area has four charred pine stumps but no live trees. These stumps are strong evidence that the tree grew here over a 100 years ago.

My other purpose for last Saturday’s hike was to map the edges of the blow down area. GPS points were taken and the points transferred to a map. The area of blow down is on a level to slightly undulating ridge top of silty sand and gravel covering about four acres. Much of the overstory is blown down and the canopy is about 50% or more open. This will be the first place I begin planting white pines.

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