October 12, 2002

People, Places and Plants

The Eastern Deciduous Forest: the sea of leaf and branch in which I have lived all of my life, my context and setting, my home. It is the dominant vegetation type for more than two thirds of North Americans. Domain of wood products, outdoor recreation and travel, a source of beauty, fiber, oxygen.

Bad, bad news: All is not well with our American woods. Numerous tree species in the forest are ill, dying, or dead, and few people know this, or seem to care nearly enough. It is looking like you and I are to blame for much of this forest decline. If we fail to act responsibly to reverse this trend by changes in our policies and our use of resources, and act soon, our children's children may grow up in a vastly different world from the one I look out upon today. Does this concern any readers of Fragments? What are your thoughts?

Some examples of tree decline can be seen in this Leaf Loss Report, an observation reported by Appalachian Voices.

A full picture of the situation is presented in a book, An Appalachian Tragedy Air Pollution and Tree Death in the Eastern Forests of North America , from which the following excerpts are taken:

All along the Appalachian chain, from Maine to Georgia, trees are dying. Spruce and fir are dead along the ridges. Great swaths of sugar maple are in mortal decline. The butternut is nearly extinct, and hemlocks are in a desperate struggle for life against an insect that flourishes as air pollution worsens. Dogwoods have been ravaged by a fungus that no one could even name until recently.

Weakened by decades of air pollution that have brought acid rain, deadly smog, and excess nitrogen, and by cell-destroying ultraviolet rays from a thinning ozone layer, the magnificent Appalachian forests are no longer able to fight off the bugs, blights, and bad weather that afflict forests everywhere. Instead, in these mountains, the trees are dying in unprecedented numbers - with death and decline affecting virtually all species in every part of the range. [...]

[...]Perhaps more than any other American region, these "round-shouldered old mountains" represent our historic devotion to the diversity of nature and the importance of community. If we allow tree death and forest decline to proceed unchecked in the Appalachians, we will have a tragedy of national proportions.

Any New Englanders out there? Check out a neat publication called People, Places and Plants.

Bikers may be interested in this online book at the site that describes the travels of a PhD botanist, Dr. Richard Churchill, who peddles across northern America. Plant Guy becomes Bike Guy looks interesting. Dr. Churchill is over 50 years old, by the way. Us old dudes still do some interesting things, okay?

Posted by fred1st at October 12, 2002 07:53 PM

I read about this problem in a Bill Bryson book, of all places - A Walk in the Woods. Good book, too :)

Posted by: Muppet at October 13, 2002 02:34 PM

I read that book! It's fabulous and I recommend it highly.....

You know, I don't believe the environmental babble that's espoused so frequently. But, I do believe that a personal code of conduct is a necessity with anything related to our natural world.

I realize this isn't a popular view....but it's the only thing that makes sense to me.

Definitely read that book!!! REPEATEDLY! It reaffirms one's connection with the land.

Posted by: Da Goddess at October 14, 2002 06:08 AM

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