Return to OG   Robert Leverett
  Jun 21, 2004 13:17 PDT 

   After a long time in the second growth, for a brief period yesterday,
I returned to the domain of the elves, hobbits, and Ents - the ancient
forest. Searching for a boundary for mapping purposes, I climbed about
400 vertical feet onto the southeast side of Todd Mountain. A solitary
OG white pine stands boldly out on the ridge side. It is at the base of
a series of rock ledges that signal the beginning of a very different
forest than the uniform one beneath. From the 900-foot contour at the
Group Campsite to the 1100-foot contour, the forest is nondescript
second growth. Then from number 1100 to number 1700, the mountain's
southeastern backbone is a treasure of old growth. A friend of mine has
a formula for beauty in a forest. It goes something like the following:

    age + diversity - human intervention = forest beauty

    I won't debate whether this formula invariably works, but it did
yesterday. I was just glad to be back in the kingdom of the boulders,
lichens, mosses, liverworts, ferns, and contorted tree forms. It was
beautiful. Although beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, it is hard
for me to believe that the simple, uniform structures of the region of
the second growth would appear to other eyes as more pleasing that the
timeless forest that lies above. I cannot argue that human intervention
is not necessary to allow us to make use of the forest, but I can argue
that more often than not, the results are visually uninteresting.

   I am struck by how often photographers and artists who know little or
nothing about old growth are drawn to the bizarre shapes of forests
sculpted by the elements. I am always moved by how many people who see a
particular old growth maple on the Todd Mountain boulder field find it
aesthetically pleasing and comment before I have a chance to tell them
that the tree is over 250 years old. What draws our attention to the old
growth forms? What is it that we see in the forms that make them
pleasing to us. Here I'm not speaking about the appeal of great size,
just form.

OG Mission Returns
  Jun 22, 2004 04:14 PDT 


   Remember our treks into Cold River, Fife Brook, etc. looking at OG? Well, this past weekend saw the return of that mission. Gary Beluzo and I have a 5-year special study permit from DCR to map the boundaries of OG on state lands as an extension of a prior two-year permit.
    It was refreshing to get myself unstuck from my obsession with the white pines and just observe the change in the physical characteristics of the lower versus upper slopes of Todd Mountain. Despite the intensity of human activity on the lower slopes, the abruptness of the change to OG is dramatic. There is very little transition. While, I commonly observe the change-over line as a sharp one in the OG of the western MA, it started me thinking about persistence of characteristics as related to forest type at the boundaries of OG. It sounds like a topic requiring Lee Frelich's expertise, involving neighborhood effects and the like. I tried to imagine continued human activity up to a boundary for different forest compositions. Which species mixes would tend to hold a sharper boundary. I have my ideas about that, but they are crude. I'll bet Lee has it down to a science. Lee? The topic is highly relevant to me now because of the mapping project. Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries.

Re: OG Mission Returns   Lee E. Frelich
  Jun 22, 2004 06:06 PDT 


That's an easy question to answer. If the second growth is early
successional species (i.e. aspen), the old growth species spread into it
very readily and advance several 100 feet in a century (except for those
susceptible to deer browsing). If the second growth comes back to sugar
maple or some other late-successional species, then the other
late-successional species that live in old growth have a very difficult
time getting re-established.

Late-successional species generally have very strong neighborhood effects
that are able to exclude other late-successional species, and if people
throw the advantage to one particular late-succesional species, then that
one can retain the advantage for centuries.

RE: OG Mission Returns   Robert Leverett
  Jun 22, 2004 07:02 PDT 


      Over the course of your research, have you arrived at a relative
ranking of neighborhood effects of the late-sucessional species sugar
maple, American beech, and hemlock for various moisture regimes and soil
types? Where soils approach a particular PH level, do we typically see
a flip in the order of the relative strengths of neighborhood effects?

      Since hearing your lecture years ago on neighborhood effects, my
assumption has been that at the circumneutral end of the spectrum, sugar
maple has a sizable advantage over hemlock and at the acidic end of the
scale, hemlock easily dominates and it's the in between space where
things get interesting. Am I even in the ball park on this?

RE: OG Mission Returns   Lee E. Frelich
  Jun 22, 2004 09:27 PDT 


You are close. Sugar maple and hemlock are essentially at a standoff on
mesic, neutral and slightly acidic soils down to pH of about 5.5. At lower
pHs, on very sandy soils, or on wet soils, hemlock has an advantage. Beech
has essentially equal neighborhood effects to sugar maple and hemlock on
sandy soils, regardless of pH, but may have a disadvantage compared to
sugar maple on silty soils and compared to hemlock on wet soils.

However, if effects of humans allow one of these three to dominate, its
tough for the others to get back in, and may it take several centuries.

RE: OG Mission Returns   Robert Leverett
  Jun 22, 2004 10:39 PDT 


   The implication of your last statement is something to chew on. What
I understand you to be saying is that the natural processes which
produce neighborhood effects can work very slowly and that human
intervention can play havoc with the processes. This suggests to me that
we need to think about the development of the forest as distinct from
the growing back of trees.

   So much of the timber industry's public hype is that we have nothing
to be concerned about from their activities because they believe that
forests bounce back in almost no time - as good as ever. They do not
acknowledge that some natural processes work very slowly, The timber
folks have an incredibly cavalier attitude about it all. What I think
they really mean is that the industry could care less about gradual
forest processes, species mixes, non-woody plants, etc. So long as
something grows back that they can cut down in 30 to 40 years, then
everything is bloody well okay with them. They even have the audacity to
define the result as a healthy forest.   

Re: OG Mission Returns   Don Bertolette
  Jun 22, 2004 20:27 PDT 

Yes I do...and it puts me in mind of very tall chimney glasses!
Let's see, you, me, Dave Kittredge in a conversation that went "I can tell
when I've walked into an old-growth stand, and when I've walked out of
it...but what is it that makes it old-growth?"
Well, we've got a better idea of what makes old-growth old-growth. But
throwing a boundary around it kind of begs the point of whether we know what
o-g is or not, huh? Will it be an inclusive boundary (one that is fuzzy and
includes possibly marginal o-g)? Or will it be exclusive, so that only true
bonafide o-g is delineated (true?, bonifide?)?
Your only hope lies in your abiility to define "abruptness"...I'm reminded
of basic forestry instruction in mapping using a plane table...involved a
tripod with a small table mounted on top of it...using a sighting compass
to measure azimuth bearings and a couple of eager young foresters with a
steel tape to measure distances, and an abney (like a clinometer to the
younger folks), you could effectively measure an acre or two pretty quickly
and reasonably accurately.
Of course there are other ways...;>}
By the way, next month at this time I'll be loading up our pickup and
driving to Alaska...Rhonda has been offered a tenure-tract Associate
Professor position at Univ. of Alaska at Anchorage this Fall...we'll make a
gradual move up there and do a Alaska/Arizona winter/summer thing...come
October, I'll be driving our Subaru Forester up...know anybody interested in
a drive up to Anchorage?
Re: OG Mission Returns
  Jun 23, 2004 04:29 PDT 


   I knew you would remember that compelling image. The frosted glass was like the vision of the Holy Grail to crusaders. Our grail led us out of the steamy green and the image worked.
   The abruptness criteria, as I define it, is actually the easiest to apply in the Berkshire-Taconic region. Boulder fields and rock ledges most often create the abrupt boundaries of OG. The sudden visual change is unmistakable. Fingers of second growth following the more accessible terrain up ridges often result in fairly abrupt changes of forest characteristics.
   Yes, David Kittredge's statements and question were important to help us frame what we mean by the term old growth. In many ways we were debating with ourselves as much as with each other about the value of creating definitions that attempt to define the outcome of natural processes working at different rates as something recognizably discreet. A simple analogy is the challenge of defining old age in humans and agreeing among ourselves what constitutes its onset. We all know that an arbitrary chronological age like 65 is for administrative convenience and does not work equally well when applied to individual cases.
   I would submit that underlying the OG definitions and debates was the on-going battle between naturalists and ecologists on the one side and timber specialists on the other. The former strongly believed that measurable differences exist between the impacts of natural processes in shaping a forest as opposed to impacts from human activity. Many of us have moved on courtesy of all the research done by scientists like Lee Frelich who has looked deep into the natural processes and seen not only much to study, but much to differentiate what nature does versus we humans.
   Regrettably, while many of us continue to search for baselines of comparison, those baselines are becoming increasingly obscured by human indirect activity. As a result, I can see a third generation of definitions looming on the horizon. More about this to come.

RE: Return to OG   Dale J. Luthringer
  Jun 24, 2004 17:57 PDT 


I have been very busy over the last couple of months planning for our
3rd Cook Forest French & Indian War Encampment. It was refreshing to
finally take a walk again along the small old growth white pine section
of the Cook Trail along Henry Run. I wasn't alone...

I was approached last weekend during our encampment by Robert Griffing,
one of THE premiere French & Indian War era artists, to take him
(again), into a special area of the park for future inspirational
painting projects. We had a couple of natives in tow, along with some
other noteworthy photographers, and headed for the "3 Brothers".

We got "side tracked" along the way on some small boulders and downed
trees that he thought would be good. I'm sure they were, but he had a
hard time believing that it would get any better than where he was just
at. It was almost like pulling teeth to get him into the area of where
the "good stuff" was. Then I thought, "Hey, I know someone like this,
but he looks exactly the opposite of the tall thin Robert Griffing that
I am with, although he does have the same first name."

When we finally got there, he must have taken a good 2-3 rolls of film,
while arranging his captive native models into various positions
crossing 'large course woody debris' and standing at the base of massive
white pines which sported 'massive crown gnarl factor'. All the time
muttering, "This is a print, THIS IS A PRINT".

It also occurred to me that this was probably the very spot that your
son Rob may have been doing his sketches of old growth white pine last
April. Rob's old growth white pine crown sketches rank right up with
some of the best paintings I've seen portraying forests of the 1750's.


Link to some of Robert Griffing's work: