Another excellent online source for learning about forests and climate adaptation is the Climate Change Response Framework, with many practical learning and planning resources for landowners, including an online workbook that generates adaptive forest management plans.
Waldo County SWCD is available to help you plan for woodlands stewardship and management in these changing times. Contact us for a site visit or for other needs or questions.
As many of you know, Maine’s forests are facing an onslaught of changes that threaten to change or degrade the diversity and productivity of our forests. Our forests have lost millions of mature elms and chestnuts, and are poised to lose most of their ash trees. Red spruce, balsam fir, birches and hemlock are all likely to face steep declines during this century. Oaks are at risk due to pathogens such as Oak Wilt and Sudden Oak Death. Beech trees, which provided important wildlife food along with chestnuts, are now a shadow of their former selves due to disease. You may have noticed that I’ve mentioned many of Maine’s major trees here. The simple truth is that our forests as we know them are likely to disappear. As conservation minded citizens, we will need to act to shepherd our forested lands into a very different future. Waldo county is 84% forested, and forests and trees are an important part of people’s lives and livelihoods here.
Our District has been at the forefront of developing soil and water conservation district leadership in forest resource conservation. Waldo SWCD has decided to make our work about addressing the degradation of forests and helping our residents find ways to steward forests during this challenging period. Our Forests for Our Future resource protection theme has encompassed stewardship workshops, high school educational programs and conservation technical assistance. We have also partnered with the Maine Forest Service to provide outreach and to monitor for invasive forest insect pests.
In the coming years, we will be spearheading adaptive forestry in Coastal Maine. Beginning with research plantings in 2019 and moving on to a broad program of citizen involvement in forest restoration plantings and scientific research. In 2019, we developed a citizen science tool for reporting on tree conditions called Report a Tree (on the Anecdata.org platform). This spring, Report a Tree will go into statewide use for reporting on the health of adaptive tree species (native and non-native trees that have the potential to thrive here) and for reporting on forest pests and disease.
Perhaps most exciting of all is the opportunity for Midcoast residents and schools to join us in planting selected adaptive tree species for the purposes of research and to begin the process of reforesting our land. Several area schools will plant and study seedlings as a part of this project, and anyone is welcome to participate. Selected species will be available as seedlings and saplings during plant sales this spring in Waldo and Knox-Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Check out our adaptive seedlings here. The “adaptive” trees selected are based on their wildlife and ecosystem value, to supplement or replace trees that may not be able to provide wildlife food and habitat due to invasives and disease, such as ash trees. The trees are also species that have been shown to be highly adaptable to drought, various soil moisture levels and temperature regimes and thus have potential to provide lumber or other forest products in different climate conditions.
Some Adaptive Tree Species
White oak: Lives in southern Maine, provides lumber and high quality acorns for wildlife
Bur oak: Rare but lives in our area, with potential to be highly adaptable to a variety of conditions
Black walnut: High value as lumber and veneer, adaptable, provides wildlife food
We have lots to share with you. Our new format Journal has many photos and interesting features, and reviews our year in detail. Also included are informative articles on hemp farming in Maine and adapting our forests for the future. Please feel free to pick up a print edition at our office, or download your free copy at the link below.
As a part of our work for landowners, WCSW staff and volunteers spend time helping them find invasive plants on their land and plan for controlling them. Late fall is our favorite time to survey for invasives in fact, because at the end of October and early in November, many invasive plants stand out like a sore thumb. When most of our native woody plants have shed their leaves, several of our most troublesome invasives still have theirs and so are easily seen. In fact, the longer period many of these plants keep their leaves gives them a growth advantage over our native plants. Take a look at these photos. In each, the invasive plants have yellow leaves while natives are bare. Asiatic (or oriental) bittersweet, a vine, can be seen climbing trees as towers of yellow leaves, and with the characteristic orange and red berries used for fall decorations in the past. Instead of using bittersweet berries, you can decorate with the bright orange and red berries of winterberry holly, a native shrub that lives near wet areas. Keep in mind, it is now illegal to sell decorations with Asiastic bittersweet berries on them.
A common invader of forest understories in Midcoast Maine is the exotic shrub honeysuckle, of which there are several species, all equally destructive. They can grow so prolifically that trees cannot regenerate under them. If you look around now and see a forest understory of shrubs with yellow leaves, it may be exotic honeysuckle, or perhaps glossy buckthorn, a small tree that also keeps its leaves into the late fall. As far as larger trees go, our native oaks are still sporting some red to brown leaves now, but most other native trees are bare, so the bright yellow and orange leaves of the invasive Norway maple really stand out. Japanese knotweed keeps its leaves into the late fall as well, and its bare reddish stems can be seen standing all winter.
After you’ve checked around for invasives, you can call us for management advice. We can visit your property and write up recommendations for how to rid your land of these plants which reduce natural diversity, timber regeneration and wildlife habitat quality. If you are eligible for NRCS EQIP programs, you also qualify for free invasive plant management plans.