Monday, January 21, 2013

Day of Service


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.

7 comments:

packrat said...

It's really nice to see young people interested enough to volunteer for important work, Scott. Good job.

robin andrea said...

What a great way to spend MLK holiday. Such good hard work. It's interesting seeing the young woodlands there, makes me wonder about fire. Here in California there is often a very serious threat during the hot summer and fall months. It's hard to keep the non-natives and the underbrush from building up in huge tinderboxes. Is there much threat of fire there?

Doug Hickok said...

Great idea and a worth while project. It is an ever lasting task keeping those non-native invasives out of the natural environment!

Scott said...

Packrat: We often get a pretty good turnout of younger volunteers when we offer projects like removing invasive vines from trees or streambank cleanups. With regard to the cleanups, the kids often vie to see who can get the most stuff-and who can get dirtiest.

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: I've heard the deciduous woods on the East Coast referred to as "asbestos forests" because it's rare that they burn. Of course, they CAN burn, especially if we've had a prolonged dry spell and the understory dries out. But, in general, brush fires and wild fires are not much of a concern.

The woodland where the volunteers were working is young, with lots of canopy gaps. As a result, sunlight is able to penetrate to the soil and the woods dries out more easily than a more mature forest with a complete leafy cover. If we were going to have a fire, this type of woods would be most likely to go up in flames.

Scott said...

Doug: We're hoping that, once we're able to re-establish a complete forest canopy, the resulting shade will suppress the growth of the invasives, most of which are sun-loving species. We've already had some measurable success with this strategy. We're not deluding ourselves that we'll ever be able to completely stop worrying about the invasives (some of which are able to persist in shade), but reducing sunlight and minimizing soil disturbance should go a long way toward making invasives management easier.

Grizz………… said...

Any idea on the age of those Norways? Or, as I see other pines nearby, why those particular trees came down? I'm sure they furnished plenty of chips for tail carpeting or landscaping, but it would have been nice to see them sawn into ronds for seating or similar use…budget, I suppose. You have a great looking home in a lovely setting, if it is yours only temporarily. When it comes down to it, all places are merely temporarily ours.