Supporting Wildlife through Ecosystem Restoration

News reports & interesting updates on tree root removal.

A forest is so much more than just a large collection of trees – it’s a living ecosystem that provides shelter, safety, food, and more to a diverse range of species. Unfortunately, the climate crisis has disturbed these natural communities, threatening the delicate balance that keeps them alive and thriving.

For the past 50 years, the Arbor Day Foundation has worked with our partners to plant millions of trees in forests and communities around the world, helping to preserve some of the Earth’s most sacred ecosystems. One of those partners, Clayton®, a Berkshire Hathaway owned company that builds off-site and site-built homes, has pledged to plant two trees for every estimated tree they used to build a Clayton home in 2021*. Through their commitment to the projects below, over 2.33 million trees will be planted this year to help restore forested ecosystems and improve habitats for endangered and threatened wildlife species.

Georgia Longleaf Habitat and Wildlife Management Areas

Nearly 400 hundred years ago, the southern United States was once dominated by 90 million acres of longleaf pine trees, stretching from Texas all the way up to Virginia. As early settlers gradually cleared away forested lands for their agricultural value and lumber, their populations were replaced with less resilient species that are more susceptible to fire, storm, and infestation damage. Currently, longleaf pines cover less than 3% of their original range. The loss of these ecosystems has been enormously devastating for the nearly 600 species of plants and animals who cannot survive elsewhere.

With the help of our planting partner the Nature Conservancy, the Arbor Day Foundation will plant more than 1 million longleaf and shortleaf pine trees in Georgia in 2022 and 2023 – close to half a million of those trees will be planted on Clayton’s behalf in 2022. These trees will be planted across a mix of public and private lands — Berry College, Paulding Forest Wildlife Management Area, Chattahoochee Fall Line, Alligator Creek Wildlife Management Area, Broxton Rocks, and Moody Forest. 

As the trees grow, they will reduce forest fragmentation and provide a fortified home to imperiled wildlife like the red-cockaded woodpecker, flatwoods salamander, gopher frog, northern pine snake, eastern indigo snake, Bachman’s sparrow, and many species of rare plants. Soil stabilization is the key to providing a livable habitat for these species to thrive in, and these trees will help reduce erosion with their ability to grow in sandy and mountainous regions. Through proper planting and maintenance carried out during this project, as well as further environmental protection, these incredibly resilient trees will provide a tremendous impact on the longevity of regional wildlife for generations to come.

Also Read: Protecting Our Planet’s Keystone Species

Michigan State Forests

Known as one of the most iconic bird species throughout the northern United States, the Kirtland’s warbler attracts bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts to Michigan’s forests for nature tours every summer. These birds typically nest in young jack pine forest stands, a native Michigan tree species that is heavily relied on for basic survival by a large variety of plants and animals. Today, the Kirtland’s warbler has thriving populations throughout these forested areas – but it hasn’t always been this way.

Beginning in the late 19th century, logging in Michigan’s forests have led to a severe decline in lands dominated by jack pine and red pine populations. This significant deforestation led to the destruction of diverse forms of habitat and landed much of the area’s wildlife – most notably the Kirtland’s warbler – on the endangered species list. Recent statewide conservation efforts have begun to focus on bringing public lands back to their natural state, and native tree planting efforts play a central role in their revival.

In coordination with our planting partners at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, this project will seek to replant nearly 6 million trees on forests and public lands throughout the state. Ongoing reforestation efforts such as this will not only protect wildlife habitats from an increasingly unstable climate, but they also allow critical species to thrive. Thanks to the continued and concerted focus of bringing back these native tree species, the Kirtland’s warbler was removed from the endangered species list in October 2019 – a feat over 50 years in the making.

Tyndall Air Force Base

Tyndall Air Force Base is no stranger to forest restoration. Named in honor of World War I pilot 1st Lt. Frank Benjamin Tyndall, the base sits on a large slash pine forest just 12 miles from Panama City, Florida. The area had previously been going through extensive reforestation efforts to revitalize native longleaf pine stands using a row gap thinning technique. The installation would have significantly improved existing habitat for federally listed wildlife species such as the gopher tortoise, with an estimated timeline of 35 years. Unfortunately, all that progress vanished when Hurricane Michael razed the land in October 2018.

The Category 5 hurricane swept over the region with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph and a 15 ft storm surge on the eastern edge of the installation. At one point, the eye of the storm glared directly over Tyndall Air Force Base, where 300 of its 484 structures were irreparably devastated. When the dust had finally settled, forest assessments revealed a total of 12,000 acres had suffered severe to catastrophic wind damage. Once the site of ecological prosperity, the landscape surrounding the base was now turned into a federally funded cleanup operation of fallen timber and environmental debris.

For the last several years, the Arbor Day Foundation has been devoted to replanting the longleaf pine population that was lost during this tragedy within a span of only 3-4 years. Reforestation efforts in areas like this are particularly urgent as the livelihood threatened wildlife and other impending costs of climate change have created increasingly vulnerable conditions for environmental catastrophe.  Further, plant species such as Godfrey’s butterwort and telephus spurge are endemic to the region and rely heavily on a vigorous longleaf pine ecosystem. Through careful planning and maintenance, each tree seedling that is planted here represents a vital step towards recovery for so many critical organisms.

Pacific Northwest

Since 2016, the Arbor Day Foundation has teamed up with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation for numerous projects located in the stunning landscapes that make up the Pacific Northwest. Many of the watersheds found there serve as an incredible source of life for communities and wildlife alike. Riparian reforestation has become a growing concern throughout the region due to an alarming increase in wildfires and flooding, which has been exacerbated by massive deforestation that took place during back the 19th and 20th centuries.

In the area, the loss of trees has an enormous effect on both land and water inhabitants. The Pacific salmon play a pivotal part in the success of this ecosystem, as 137 different species of all kinds are directly supported by their abundance and overall existence. Humankind also heavily relies on these fish, as salmon provide an estimated $2 billion in economic value to the states of Washington and Oregon. Due to the degradation of river ecosystems and record-setting heat waves, these critical waters have become environmentally hostile territories for these salmon who cannot survive in warmer waters.

By continuing our concerted efforts in the Lower Columbia, Willamette, Upper Willamette, North Santiam, South Santiam, McKenzie, and Spokane rivers, we are able to provide several ecological benefits to Pacific Northwestern wildlife through the simple act of planting trees. As the trees grow, they will provide soil stability along major rivers while simultaneously shading streams to cool water temperatures. Furthermore, the area’s residents will also benefit from improved sediment filtration and drinking water quality the matured trees will provide.

The above article was first provided here.

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