Friday, February 5, 2010

Not Really Epic

I pass this gate on a regular basis. It's obviously private property, and I don't know who it belongs to.
It has been amusing me to watch the lichen spread on the stone wall, it almost looks like it is being gradually whitewashed. I could see from the crowns of the trees beyond the wall that they are dying.
I decided to climb over the wall and have a peek.
With the exception of trees that threaten the driveway, like the one above, nobody has been cutting or clearing the fallen branches and trunks, so it's possible to get a good sense of just what percentage of trees are dying in this location.
And I would estimate it's close to 100%. In addition to all the logs on the ground, the standing trees uniformly exhibit symptoms of decline.
It's an incredible sight.
Sometimes, the trees break at some point along the trunk, and in other cases they keel over bringing up huge clumps of roots and dirt.
These roots ripped out of the earth are much taller than I.
Here it is clear that the standing trees will soon join those already lying on the ground.
Some stumps are hardly recognizable.
Think how many must have already rotted away to the point where they are not there at all.
There were no young trees that could regenerate the forest, other than a few seedlings like this one, from the past year. Nothing from a foot high to 10 or 20 feet.

The storm story on the front page of HuffPo is headlined: “Epic Snowstorm Batters East Coast: Trees Are Starting to Come Down”

Please note, trees are not supposed to fall down because it is snowing. Trees evolved to survive much worse snowstorms than this (note the very last excerpt below). If it was normal for them to fall down because of snow, they would have all fallen down by now and we wouldn’t have any left.

There are many areas of untouched woods, where there are more trees lying on the ground than there are standing. Why? We are poisoning them with toxic greenhouse gases. They cannot breathe (photosynthesize) in the atmospheric anarchy of our fuel emissions.

Here are sections from the article. We can expect much more of this as the dying trees fall:

“A blizzard battered the Mid-Atlantic region Saturday, with emergency crews struggling to keep pace with the heavy, wet snow that has piled up on roadways, toppled trees and left thousands without electricity.

“Things are fairly manageable, but trees are starting to come down,” said D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer, whose agency responded to some of the falling trees.

“Maryland Transit Administration spokeswoman Jawauna Greene said the underground portion of the Metro could reopen later Saturday but it depended on the weather conditions.”

We have trees on the overhead wires, trees on train tracks. We can’t get anything out,” she said.

“Hundreds of thousands of customers across the region had lost electricity and more outages were expected to be reported because of all the downed power lines.”

“The biggest snowfall for the Washington-Baltimore area is believed to have been in 1772, before official records were kept, when as much as 3 feet fell, which George Washington and Thomas Jefferson penned in their diaries.”

A truck passes a fallen tree on Oxon Hill Road in Fort Washington, ...

This link is to an article at Climate Progress, about the EPA decision to push for more use of biofuels. In the comments I have been trying unsuccessfully to find out who, if anyone, is taking into consideration the effects of emissions from burning ethanol. It seems not even those who are enlightened about climate change want to deal with that question!


  1. Hey - I just found this website: some very disturbing info you have uncovered here for someone like me who is deeply interested in forestry.

    We need to begin to decentralize the population of the USA, and especially reduce the concentration of populations in massive suburban and urban areas.

    For instance, I see that you are in New Jersey. New Jersey is obviously very overpopulated, with a population roughly the same as North Carolina even though NC is obviously MUCH bigger than NJ. Thus it makes sense that the trees and vegetation are suffering in NJ because of population concentrations there, because concentrated populations means the overconcentration of emissions from autos, power plants, factories, etc.

    Thus I propose the decentralization of populations from overpopulated areas like NJ. There have already been MANY people from The North who have moved here to The South in the last couple of decades, and we have plenty of small towns situated near farms, waterways, and so on which could be reactivated by an influx of well-meaning people from other areas.

    I too have noticed that in the overpopulated areas of NC (Charlotte, Raleigh, etc) the vegetation and trees are suffering from the problems you mention on this website. However, once you get a good distance away from the major urban/suburban conurbations and out in to the countryside the trees and vegetation seem to look much healthier. Similarly, I cannot imagine that the trees and vegetation of a very sparsely settled state such as Idaho and Wyoming are suffering from the same amount of degradation as the trees in overpopulated states like NJ, MA, etc.

    Again, if we decentralize populations this will help the local damage that results from the overconcentration of human populations.

  2. Also, I ought to mention that you ought to form a co-op with some of the local people in your area to clean up the forests by removing what you can of the dead and dying trees - through that y'all can also gain a bunch of free firewood (energy).

    Also, clearing the forest floor of dead trees will allow room for new ones to sprout and grow in the future. A long time ago forest fires used to be a part of the natural cycle of forests, clearing the forest of weak trees so that new ones had the room to sprout and grow. Now that we no longer allow forest fires to burn for long this natural cycle has been interrupted.

  3. Thanks for reading and commenting! It is my goal to raise awareness about the dwindling health of our trees. We cannot begin to remedy this situation until the primary cause is identified.

    i think it is going to require some rigorous scientific study to figure this out. Large cities and shipping food an average of 1,500 miles from its source on not going to be tenable in the future for a variety of reasons.

    But merely moving people will only shift the dreck unless we all make serious conversions to clean energy and local, sustainable food production.

    It is a tall order!

  4. PW, mosts of the dead trees are cleared by the landowners, who get low, farmland tax assessment for managed woodlots. That's why it is interesting to find a plot that for whatever reason, is intact. Clearing dead trees doesn't help with regeneration though, because the deer population is enormous - even in suburban towns - and they eat everything!

    Of course, when food gets to be prohibitively expensive, the deer will look a lot more tasty - between that and a lack of food for them to eat, their population will see a consequent decline.


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