old eastern hemlocks in MI Hiawatha N.F.

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old eastern hemlocks in MI Hiawatha N.F.

Post by RoySpencer » Sun Jul 22, 2012 9:33 am

I'm a climate researcher (and NTS newbie) at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, but my wife and I are originally from Sault Ste. Marie, MI. I've always had a hobby interest in trees.

During a recent visit to the Sault, we gathered some driftwood on the shores of the Upper St. Mary's River, which drains out of Lake Superior. When I returned home to Alabama, I discovered one of the pieces was obviously cut off the side of a large log by a sawmill. Judging by it's curvature, I estimate the log was close to 2 ft in diameter. What surprised me was the number of rings in this fairly thin slice of wood: about 190 in a little over 3 inches from the outer surface of the log inward to the saw cut.

This got me interested in what kind of tree might be so old (maybe 500 years or more), so I contacted Ed Cook about old hemlocks he sampled near Salt Pt. in 1983 during a trip across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Ed graciously gave me some advice and papers regarding the identification of old hemlocks and the use of an incremental borer (which I already have).

Anyway, I've been examining some cool-season Google Earth imagery of the eastern Hiawatha National Forest, and have identified what look like a number of hemlock stands which will require some hiking to reach. This Fall I would like to go visit a few of these, and maybe try to get a permit to take a few cores if I find anything that looks quite old.

Since the oldest hemlocks Ed Cook found in 1983 were not far off of existing roads and trails, I suspect there are numerous hemlocks even older than Ed sampled in this region.

I just thought I would introduce myself, and see if anyone has any advice for me.

-Roy W. Spencer
Huntsville, AL

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Re: old eastern hemlocks in MI Hiawatha N.F.

Post by Chris » Sun Jul 22, 2012 2:30 pm

The national forest has a GIS shapefile for "old growth" forest that could be useful. How they delineated this I don't know.

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Larry Tucei
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Re: old eastern hemlocks in MI Hiawatha N.F.

Post by Larry Tucei » Sun Jul 22, 2012 8:59 pm

Hello Roy and welcome to NTS. Several of our members would be interested in your findings. Neil Pederson's Old List has Hemlocks cored to 555 years. http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/~adk/oldlisteast/ I'm sure others will comment on your post. Larry

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Re: old eastern hemlocks in MI Hiawatha N.F.

Post by DonCBragg » Sun Jul 22, 2012 9:15 pm

Hello, Roy...I, too, am a displaced Yankee living in the South (grew up in northern Wisconsin, BS & MS in Forestry at Michigan Tech), now a Research Forester with the US Forest Service, Southern Research Station in Monticello, Arkansas. We get back to the Wisconsin/Michigan area frequently, and actually did some camping along the shores of Lake Superior this June. Didn't spend much time on the Hiawatha, but saw some great old-growth hemlock at Tahquamenom Falls State Park and some at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I've visited lots of old growth hemlock in the UP and a few places in northern Wisconsin. Wish I could get up there this fall to join you, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards. Would love to chat with y'all about the area, though... Drop me a line at DonCBragg@netscape.net if you get the chance...

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Re: old eastern hemlocks in MI Hiawatha N.F.

Post by Neil » Mon Jul 23, 2012 5:55 am

Dear Roy (and NTS),

I wish you luck with finding old hemlocks. Your work could be a real boon in reconstructing past environments. Contacting NTS was a great idea. No doubt there are NTS who can help you with your project. I'm happy to help as you need, too.

This gives me a good opportunity to make you aware of a large-scale project to recover and save information locked away in hemlock trees before they are lost to HWA. Amy Hessl of West Virginia University (http://hessl.eberly.wvu.edu/) and I have a paper accepted at Progress in Physical Geography http://ppg.sagepub.com/. The main goal of the paper is to make a call to arms to document and recover information in old-growth hemlock forests. It seems like many people are stating to do this now. We hope to HeLP coordinate the collection and archiving of information and cores, especially in regions where HWA is currently taking down many trees (though I did get off the phone with a Smoky Mtn employee who had said he sees encouraging signs in the survival of some trees). Amy will have a PhD student coordinating the project. There will be a web site and a more formal announcement early in the fall (hopefully).

I wanted to give NTS a heads up as I thought of you the whole time we were putting this together. I can see NTS playing an important role in the success of this rather ambitious project. For some more information, below is the title of the paper and a draft of the abstract.


Hemlock Legacy Project (HeLP): A Paleoecological Requiem for Eastern Hemlock

Amy Hessl and Neil Pederson

Progress in Physical Geography http://ppg.sagepub.com/

Eastern North American forests have effectively lost two major tree species (American chestnut and American elm) in the last 100 years and two more, eastern and Carolina hemlock, will be functionally extinct over much of their ranges within a couple of decades. The loss of eastern hemlock is of particular concern because hemlock is: 1) a foundation species; 2) one of the longest-lived tree species over much of temperate eastern North America; and 3) sensitive to climatic variation and ecosystem disturbance, making it an ideal species for the reconstruction of environmental history. Unlike American chestnut, we have a small window of opportunity to salvage environmental histories from hemlock before they are lost. In this progress report, we review the extensive body of science derived from this paleoenvironmental archive and urge scientists from eastern North America to sample and archive old-growth hemlock while living and dead material remain. Here we describe a community-based approach to salvaging paleoenvironmental archives that could serve as a model for collections from other foundation species currently threatened by exotic forests pests and pathogens (e.g. whitebark pine, ash). The approach supports Schlesinger’s (2010)) call for “translational ecology” by building connections between scientists, students, environmental NGOs, and land managers focused on old-growth forests.

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Re: old eastern hemlocks in MI Hiawatha N.F.

Post by RoySpencer » Tue Jul 31, 2012 2:07 pm

Just returned from a week in Munich...thanks for all of the input and advice.

Neil, I was under the impression that HWA has not extended into the cold northern reaches of the U.S. Is this true?

Chris, I'll look into the old growth shapefile dataset.

As someone who works in remote sensing, I have to wonder whether there has been any effort in the development of a non-destructive method for imaging tree rings from the outside? I see that ultrasound typically has a limiting resolution of 1 mm, which probably would need to be improved by a factor of 4, and it sounds like the signal attenuation is a problem in most woods, anyway. It sure would be nice if you could put a probe up against a tree and in a matter of seconds have tree ring imagery as if you had a whole cookie cut out of the tree.


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