Climate-Resilient Sugarbush Forest Restoration
KNC's Fern Valley Trail cuts through a beautiful area of beech-maple forest that was also dominated by ash trees. Once a lush and shady place for visitors, Fern Valley Trail now features acres of dead ash trees laid to waste by the emerald ash borer, a devastating invasive insect. As ash trees died, openings in the canopy let unexpected sunlight onto the forest floor, creating a window of opportunity for invasive shrubs like honeysuckle and autumn olive to flourish and grow. Shrubs took over, blocking regeneration of native trees, and leaving KNC with a huge problem.
KNC’s stewardship team has been working for the last year to clear this area and to prepare for replanting a new sugarbush, but the decision to replant is complicated due to climate change. Research shows that plants and animals are already adapting to new climate patterns and changing their ranges. Experts warn that not all of our native trees will be well adapted to the warmer and wetter future that is projected. Sadly, in Kalamazoo’s future, beloved trees like eastern white pine, aspen, paper birch, and even sugar maple may be unlikely to thrive. KNC’s restoration plan takes both our history and this uncertain future into consideration.
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