Seeing the forest and the trees

At the base of Mt. Washington, paper birches start to strut their stuff

Despite the short days, I really enjoy November in New Hampshire, partly because it feels like things are slowing down a bit and partly because, with the leaves gone, I can see the trees themselves now. In the summer I appreciate the green shade provided by trees, I love the colors of fall, and I will be very excited to see leaf buds in spring, but sometimes I forget what is holding all of those leaves up- and this time of year reminds me just how much I love looking at the trunks of birches.

I appreciate the trees around me for several reasons: they are beautiful to look at, they provided habitat to wildlife, they take in carbon dioxide in exchange for oxygen, and the products we get from trees are quite helpful. As a NH native, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention just how much joy maple syrup has added to my life (yesterday’s apple pie is just one piece of that). I find deciduous trees particularly appealing because their appearance changes so much from season to season.

When Hurricane Sandy came through a few days ago, we sustained minimal damage in part because the leaves had already fallen and branches were free to twist and turn as needed. Had this storm been earlier in the year, like Irene, it would have been worse for us. I’ve heard people talk about more extreme weather events as the climate changes which could be a future problem for both us and the trees. But global climate change can have other effects on trees as well, so I’m curious to learn about concerns scientists have for the future of our forests, specifically the temperate forests that are nearest to my heart. This month I will be investigating the relationship between climate change and tree survival. This is a topic that I know very little about (I know that maple syrup production has been shifting north, but I’m not sure how much of that is acid rain and how much is climate change; I know that paper birches are at the southern limit of their range here, but I don’t know how much conditions need to shift before they start having problems; and I know that there are concerns for species who have already retreated to mountain tops), and I’m not sure how much research is available, but I’m going to see what I can find and look for ways to aid trees as conditions around them change.  I don’t expect to be the Lorax, but I’m hopeful that I can get a better sense of what is happening and how we are/can be involved in the path from here.

So join me for a walk through the woods and current conservation research on forests.


Posted November 2, 2012 by Mirka Zapletal in Plant Communities

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