Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The state of the Woodlands after Hurricane Sandy

                                                     As a member of the Woodlands Advisory Board, I just received the informative [and terribly sad] letter reprinted below from Caroline Greenleaf, the director of Community Relations for the Central Park Conservancy. I asked her permission to share it with readers of this blog and she gave it. Read it and weep:

Dear Woodlands Advisory Board Members:
We wanted to provide you with a Hurricane Sandy and November 7th snow storm update, particularly as it pertains to the resulting damage in the woodlands areas.  Park-wide, we have lost approximately 500 trees which were either felled by storm winds or snow, or which sustained serious damage that necessitated their removal due to safety concerns. There were an additional 370 trees that required special attention after losing limbs and which we will be monitoring over the next few months. 
Both the Ramble and the North Woods were severely impacted, and some of our most beloved old trees fell victim to the extreme conditions. The total losses in these areas were 70 and 93 trees, respectively.  One Eastern Black Oak in the North Woods (near Huddlestone Arch) was the oldest tree so far recorded in the Park: in the vicinity of 165 years old. We have preserved a section of the trunk which will  be inspected microscopically to accurately determine the exact age. This magnificent tree was about ninety feet tall and was completely uprooted by the hurricane's high winds. Lindens and Oaks fared the worst park-wide, including a stand of Pin Oaks in the Ramble east of the Rustic Shelter. The well-known "Swampy Pin Oak" there had sections of its shattered crown splinter off and rip into several other large oaks and smaller trees that were in their downward path. The damage to the surrounding trees necessitated their removal and it has left quite an open space. Another stately Pin Oak  that we were sad to lose was on the north shore of the Lake east of Bow Bridge. It managed to stay standing through the storms, but developed a substantial crack down the trunk that compromised its integrity. 
It was imperative to complete the clean-up operations while we had specialized equipment and multiple tree professionals in the Park, and within a reasonable amount of time so that we could reopen the areas to the public.  Both woodlands areas present significant challenges to mobilizing the large equipment necessary to clear damaged trees, but this is especially true in the Ramble. Tree crews were sensitive to minimizing collateral damage, but some landscapes show the telltale signs of damage from the maneuvering of machinery.
As you know, the woodlands in Central Park were always designed landscapes that were meant to be managed, versus completely left to nature. The substantial loss of so many beautiful trees has been difficult, but we are endeavoring to look at the positive side of the opportunities presented to us in both woodland zones. In a couple of small areas in the North Woods, we took  advantage of having our contractors' specialized equipment by culling out Sycamore Maples, an invasive species which would aggressively reseed in areas that now have sunlight. We want to fill in these areas with appropriate native vegetation which will serve to compete with invasive species and also provide cover and food for birds and other wildlife. 
We will be planning very carefully in those areas of the Ramble where the storms have left a sudden break in the canopy. It is critical to manage these clearings to discourage takeover by invasives such as Sycamore and Norway Maples, and Japanese Knotweed, which has become prolific in the Ramble in the last few years. Similar to plans we are formulating for the North Woods, we are looking ahead to spring when we will plant carefully chosen native species, as well as an understory that will attract, nurture, and protect birds. We will strategically leave valuable snags as much as possible, as well as fallen sections of trees that serve to enrich soil and harbor diverse food sources.

           Director of Community Relations
 Central Park Conservancy 

PS from Marie: I googled "Swampy Pin Ok" in  search of a photo to illustrate this report. One of the first items I found was this:

We reached the area birdwatchers call the Swampy Pin Oak (sticklers prefer to call it the Pin Oak swamp, for there is no such tree as a swampy pin oak). Within a little grove of trees growing in a moist sumpy spot, there is one significantly larger tree right in the center, the "swampy" pin oak. That day it was hopping with a variety of small birds while the wet ground below revealed others busily poking around in the mud.

Redtails in Love
by Marie Winn

PPS I didn't find a photo of the "Swampy Pin Oak" so I've posted a generic one from Google images.