Re: Reading the Forested Landscape

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#1)  Reading the Forested Landscape

Postby adam.rosen » Mon Feb 01, 2016 9:11 am

panorma of uphill hemlock 8 6 in cbk.jpg
OK, this panorama shot is weird.  The tree in the back has 11 feet of tape measure along the base.  This is my low tech/high tech measurement method, which involves printing the photo, using 11 feet of tape measure to create a scale, and then measuring tree height.  However, "objects in this mirror may be larger than they seem" so it is not accurate.  This tree is at least 90 feet tall, and 8' 6" CBH.
panorama of giant hemlock gould hill.jpg
This is a panorama shot of the oldest one, with 8' 3" CBH, and I estimate 80-90 tall.  This is the one that leans west.
standing snag--when did this happen.jpg
Here is a standing hemlock snag.  Straight line storm damage, but how long does it take for a hemlock to develop tree fungus like this?
panorama of helmlock on stream bank.jpg
This one is here so you can see the buttressed roots.
straight line storm damage.jpg
I think this picture captures some of the straight line storm damage.  This hillside faces west, and it is windy here.  Hard to say when this occured.
coarse woody debris.jpg
This is a dead, decaying down hemlock.  There are several in various stages of decompostion.
panorma, mixed ages.jpg
A good way to see the trees and see what is not there.  you can walk a mile in this woods without seeing a stone wall, which is rare in New England.
hemlock leans.jpg
This one is the elder in this grove, but not the larger.  It really has a lean, west, toward the weather.  What other than a cyclonic storm could cause this?
birch trunk, bark.jpg
I hope you can see the older bark characteristics.
yellow birch.jpg
That's my daughter, picture posted with permission.
younger hemlock, same neighborhood, grown and matured enought to house a porcupine.jpg
This would be a basal scar, on the very edge of this grove.
I've been enjoying exploring a grove near my house that the East Montpelier Trail Network naively refers to as "Old Growth Hemlock".  When an ENT sees this term bandied about, it is a case for either prove or disprove.  In this case, I've used Tom Wessels' book Reading the Forested Landscape and another publication, "Characteristics of Old Growth Forests" by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.  The canopy in this grove is simply not high enough for old growth forest, even on a steep hillside that faces the windy west.  I have compared my photographs from here with those from Lord's Hill, Gifford Woods and Billings Farm and can see the canopy is just plain old lower in this grove-but it still is the highest canopy in town.  However, there are many wonderful characteristics of a forest in a mature second growth with limited disturbance for a period of time.  Some of the characteristics are of course coarse woody debris, buttressed roots and twisted trunks, and mature bark that just doesn't look like adolescent bark.

I've also notices that this area is a habitat for pileated woodpeckers, the presence of cavity trees, the absence of double trunked trees and basal scars, and a delightful mix of younger and older trees.  There are no stumps, nor are there the characteristics of trees that grew out of stumps.  Wessels encourages New Englanders to look for signs of straight line storms, particular evidence from a line of whoppers in 1985, and also evidence of cyclonic wind from the 1937 hurricane.  Not to be too forensic, but the I think the oldest tree in this grove (evidence for this is the quality of bark and the 40 feet of straight bole in the trunk) leans away from the weather, leaning west.  I used a tape measure as a plumb bob to demonstrate.  i wonder if this tree was knocked of kilter all the way back in '37.  There are also several snapped off trees that must have succumbed to a straight line storm, but when, I could not tell you.  How does one age a hemlock snag?  At a nearby park, just two  miles away, the forest ranger counted rings on a 2' 6" hemlock stump and got 197, so I think some of these trees might actually be that old, but I really can't say.

For data, I have meausred three trunks of hemlocks, and got CBH of 8', 8' 3" and 8' 6".  Using my crazy tape measure/photograph/print and measure I found one hemlock to be 80' and another 90'.  I think there may be other taller trees in the grove.  There is limited diversity, but one shagbark hickory looked large and healthy, and I also found a yellow birch that seems to have been struggling along under this canopy for 100 years or so.  From it's size and quality of bark, it reminds me of the yellow birch that grew around Camel's Hump after a huge fire in the 1890's.  I estimate this hemlock grove to be 100-150 years old, and that it was primarily seeded from a mast year of hemlock.  I suspect maple and other hard woods were selectively logged out at some point (but carefully, with horses, no basals scars are visible).

I hope you enjoy the post. Any ENT with a fancy Nikon Laser tool can get a guided tour and we can determine that actual height of these trees.
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