One of the numerous benefits of owning Holt Research Forest (HRF) is the abundance of outreach and educational opportunities Maine TREE hosts on the property. There is no more perfect time to take to the woods than the early winter. Ticks are hibernating, mosquitoes are nowhere to be found, the mud is frozen, and the chill in the air feels pleasantly refreshing as you hike through the coastal oak-pine stands. This December, Maine TREE was thrilled to host the University of Maine’s Center of Research on Sustainable Forests’ Forest Climate Change Initiative (FCCI) and the Forest Stewards Guild at Holt Research Forest for their 2nd session in their 2022 Webinar and Field Tour Series: Addressing Forest Climate Change in Maine. The HRF session highlighted “Oak-Pine Climate Adaptation.”
This event kicked off on December 1st with a one-hour webinar where forestry professionals and the general public could tune in to hear about climate change-related topics and projects. As a long-term ecosystem study that originated in 1983, the nearly 40 years of data collected at HRF allow scientists to investigate changes occurring over time – changes often overlooked during short-term studies. Research scientist Jack Witham discussed some of the relevant findings, including the loss of hardwood regeneration due to increased deer browse, oak regeneration patterns linked to masting years (driven by several environmental factors including climate), changes in fruit counts due to shifts in vegetation species populations, as well as shifts in small mammal species. Of note, Jack has found climate-driven changes in flying squirrel populations, with a shift from predominantly Northern flying squirrels to Southern flying squirrels occurring in the early 2000s.
The following Friday, December 3rd, Maine TREE Board member and co-owner of Mid Maine Forestry Barrie Brusila led a field tour of HRF alongside Jack. Around 30 individuals attended, and everyone spent the morning walking through the woods discussing many topics surrounding forest management and climate change effects on oak-pine forests. As everyone stood at the edge of the salt marsh bordering the HRF property, Jack spoke about the impact of climate change-related droughts on the salt marshes and, subsequently, on tree health. “There’s a lot of pines that are adjacent to the salt marshes that have been dying,” Jack stated. “Part of this is caused in part by the droughts that we’ve been having. Because it’s been so dry, there’s little fresh water coming down towards the shore, which allows for salt water to intrude further into the soil or into the upland, and the trees then suck up that sasaltwaterWhite pine in particular is very intolerant of salt.”
Todd Ontl, Climate Adaptation Specialist for the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, and Kelly French, Maine TREE’s Programs and Outreach Coordinator, both spoke on the importance of considering microclimate with broader climate trends when considering how to manage forests to mitigate climate change effects. “Even in the face of climate change, it is possible to manage your forest to create multiple environments with the proper temperatures, humidities, and soil moisture conditions to encourage the growth and health of a variety of species across the climate-sensitivity spectrum,” says Kelly. Todd and Kelly agreed that the importance of microclimate drives home the value of managing for structural diversity.
If you were unable to attend the webinar or tour, please visit https://crsf.umaine.edu/fcci-webinars/holt-field-tour/, where you can watch the recorded presentation, and see more photos and video clips from the field tour. Thank you to UMaine’s FCCI and the Forest Stewards Guild for organizing this event, and Maine TREE looks forward to hosting more educational opportunities at HRF in the coming year!