Research looks into 400 years of Pennsylvania’s forests, which have been ‘completely transformed’

By Marcus Schneck
Researchers at Penn State and other universities investigate historic influences on modern forests.

While forests of the northeastern U.S., from Pennsylvania north to Maine, may hold mostly the same tree species as they did 400 years ago, significant differences emerge under closer inspection.

“If you only looked at a tree species list, you’d have the impression that Northeast forests haven’t changed,” explained Jonathan Thompson, research associate at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. “But once you start mapping the trees, and counting them up, a different picture emerges. In some ways the forest is completely transformed.”

While forests of the northeastern U.S., from Pennsylvania north to Maine, may hold mostly the same tree species as they did 400 years ago, significant differences emerge under closer inspection.

“If you only looked at a tree species list, you’d have the impression that Northeast forests haven’t changed,” explained Jonathan Thompson, research associate at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. “But once you start mapping the trees, and counting them up, a different picture emerges. In some ways the forest is completely transformed.”

The researchers found that farming was the most significant factor in today’s composition of the forest. If more than half of a town was farmed, the local forests likely have changed considerably from their colonial-era selves.

But, even as the composition of the forests changes, the forest as a landscape type is resilient across the region and, short of significant human development, will return to that state, explained David Foster, director of the Harvard Forest.

Source: Research looks into 400 years of Pennsylvania’s forests, which have been ‘completely transformed’ – pennlive.com, 2019-11-21

Pennsylvanians hold the fate of the state’s woodlands in their hands

By Marylouise Sholly
Pennsylvanians hold the health of the state’s woodlands in their hands, literally.

Allyson Muth believes in educating people about the Commonwealth’s precious resource. Of the 60 percent of Pennsylvania woods that remain forested, 70% of them are privately owned.

“That is a tremendous number,” said Muth, director of Penn State University’s Center for Private Forests. “Our goal is to engage and educate people about their woodland.”

A key part of that education is learning how to be good stewards of the land. To ensure the continuing health of Pennsylvania’s forests, the Center focuses on outreach and education to agencies, landowners and the public.

A forest is defined as at least 1 acre of land that’s not maintained as lawn, with the primary vegetation being trees.

Privately owned forested land is owned by 738,000 landowners, according to the last survey, taken in 2010, Muth said. Interestingly, more than 60 percent of those landowners own less than 10 acres.

About one-fourth of the Commonwealth’s forests are owned by the state, including state parks and forests, state game lands and the Ft. Indiantown Gap Pennsylvania National Guard training facility.

Less than 5% is federally owned, including the Allegheny National Forest.

A recent survey conducted by the Center that asked folks what they liked about having their own forest brought some surprising answers, Muth said.

Using firewood or cutting timber was way down on the survey.

“We asked the owners what was important to them,” Muth said. ” The top two answers were ‘solitude’ and ‘enjoyment.’ We also had comments like, ‘it’s my little piece of paradise,’ and ‘it’s something I own that I can care for.’ ”

Source: Pennsylvanians hold the fate of the state’s woodlands in their hands – The Murcury, 2019-11-20

Carbon program offers forest owners a way to profit — by letting their trees stand

By Laura Legere
HEGINS TOWNSHIP — The Hoover family hunting camp sits alone on a ridge called Sherman Mountain or Little Mountain, depending on whom you ask, surrounded by nearly 900 acres of trees.

It is built from the concrete remains of a coal tipple — a building where coal cars were hauled up through a nearby mine shaft to dump their loads of soft anthracite into waiting trucks that would take it away to be burned in power plants.

The Schuylkill County parcel’s legacy is in harvesting carbon. Its future is in storing it.

Mark Hoover, 43, his father, Bryan, and uncle Brent signed an easement with the Nature Conservancy in 2017 to preserve their forest forever and manage it sustainably.

The Hoovers’ caretaking of the forest will allow them to market the property as a kind of carbon bank — a place where carbon dioxide is pulled from the air by healthy and growing trees that store it in their trunks and roots and soil for a century.

At current prices on the voluntary carbon market, the Hoovers could make more than $100,000 over 10 years for leaving their forest standing, Josh Parrish, the director of the Nature Conservancy program, estimated.

Source: Carbon program offers forest owners a way to profit — by letting their trees stand – Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 2019-06-24

A new strategy to regrow a forest on abandoned mineland: Start by tearing up the earth

By Andy Kubis
The relatively new technique counters what had been traditional practice. But, one forester said, “It’s more natural — the way it was supposed to be, the way it was before mining.”

Deep in the Moshannon State Forest in Elk County, there’s a sloped, barren patch of land surrounded by an otherwise healthy forest. It looks as if a tornado has torn through here — the earth has been churned up, with tangled roots and jumbled rocks.

In the late 1800s, this area was deep-mined. Later, it was strip-mined. When the coal companies left in the mid-1990s, the land was abandoned. Then about twelve years ago, the site was reclaimed. Trees were planted, but didn’t take, as often happens on reclaimed minelands.

“The technology back then was to just re-contour the land,” explains John Hecker, a forester for the state who manages this track of land. “But the bulldozers, as they ran over the land, they compacted the soil. Trees don’t do very well on compacted soil. This site is a good example of that.”

What few trees are here are extremely stunted and thin. But now this — and hundreds of acres of formerly mined land in Pennsylvania — are getting an ecological do-over. ‘Reclamation 2.0,’ you could call it.

That’s why the ground is ripped apart. A jumbo-sized bulldozer with a 3-foot blade came through here earlier in the year and criss crossed the area with deep furrows. As the dozer went through, it blended the materials together to make what looks like very healthy soil: a lot of shale, pre-mined and native soils and sandstone.

“Now the tree roots [can] grow down into that loose soil where it’s moist,” Hecker said. “Those trees will really grow well.”

This aggressive form of bulldozing is a relatively new technique; it’s only been used for the last 10 years or so. It’s called the Forestry Reclamation Approach.

Source: A new strategy to regrow a forest on abandoned mineland: Start by tearing up the earth – StateImpact Pennsylvania, 2019-06-07

The Ancient Trees Of Cook Forest

By Terry Belke
Of the almost 750 million acres of forest in the U.S., only about 3.5 million acres (or 6-percent), are considered old growth.

COOKSBURG PA — Old growth forests in North America are very rare. It’s estimated that of the almost 750 million acres of forest in the U.S., only about 3.5 million acres are considered old growth forests, and scientists have been debating for years on how to define them.

Cook Forest Environmental Education Specialist Dale Luthringer explains, “I think the best definition that I’ve seen so far is you’re trying to get a certain number of trees in the forest that pre-date the lumber history for that area.”

Cook Forest in Northwest P.A. was founded in 1927, and Luthringer says it’s considered one of the finest stands of old growth White Pine and Hemlock in the United States.

“By far, the ancient White Pine and the Hemlock is really what sets Cook Forest apart,” he says. “In terms of tall White Pine, we’ve got three White Pine that are in the hundred and seventy foot class. Our tallest Hemlock is just shy of a hundred and fifty feet, it’s about a hundred and forty eight feet tall.”

But this forest is not special only for the immense height of it’s trees. These towering sentries are truly ancient.

“Our oldest Hemlocks and Pines are around three hundred and fifty years old,” says Luthringer. “We have White Oak and Chestnut Oak that are approaching that, that we’ve got actual ring data, three thirty plus. The oldest known tree in the woods is actually a Cucumber Tree […] it’s on the ground now, but it’s the oldest known Cucumber Tree to science. That tree was about four hundred and forty years old.”

When the park was founded it was an effort to protect this unique environment from the ravages of the timber industry. Now almost a century later, park management must defend the Hemlocks from a new destructive force.

The invasive insect Hemlock Wooly Adelgid was discovered in Cook Forest in 2013. The tiny insect can kill trees within four to 10 years of infestation, and is ravaging forests across North America. Fortunately for the Cook Forest Hemlocks, the park was prepared for the invaders, and have been successful in protecting the cherished trees.

Source: The Ancient Trees Of Cook Forest – WGRZ, 2018-10-14