We sponsored our annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service today, Monday, January 21, to take advantage of people's day off work and school, and their interest in volunteering. We had about 10 volunteers from their early teens to retirement age who came out to help us prepare an area for reforestation.
The volunteers spent most of their time removing branches and logs from a woodland that had been heavily invaded by non-native plants. This is a young woodland, and the incomplete forest canopy allowed sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor, encouraging non-native plants to thrive.
In many situations, downed wood (coarse woody debris) is an ecological asset. It provides habitat for salamanders and all sorts of invertebrates at the lower end of the food web, plus the wood decomposes and enriches the soil with organic matter and nutrients. But in heavily invaded woods like this one, logs and branches prevent the stewardship staff and volunteers from keeping the vines and non-native shrubs under control until the forest canopy closes, so in this case we made the decision to remove the downed wood.
We'll plant new trees in the woodland gaps in the spring. Over time, I hope that we'll have to come back to this reforestation spot less and less frequently as the leafy canopy closes and and casts the demon invasives into eternal shade.