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So Far So Good

Posted on Feb 9, 2016

So far we have monitored five sites of interest within Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties in search of new infestations of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. For the third year in a row, all of our sites still appear to be HWA free, and are full of healthy trees that support beautiful ecosystems. This past week in particular, we monitored South Valley State Forest and learned from a local volunteer that the streams running through it are excellent trout streams.

South Valley SF

These hemlocks do an excellent join of hanging on to the hillside and stream banks. Their overhanging branches shade the waters and root systems hold onto the soils beneath them.

Thanks to the shade the hemlocks provide, these streams stay cool and therefore highly oxygenated for trout and other species within the stream. They may hang up a fishing line or two as their sweeping branches dip down close to the water’s edge, but without them the stream would be significantly altered. While I paused for a moment from our survey and looked down from the hilltop, I admired the scenery and of course began to wonder, “Hmmm what salamanders could be in here?” “What macroinvertebrates are in here?” What other wildlife within this forest visit the stream and use the hemlocks for nesting, hiding, food, etc.?”

South Valley-clubmoss

Lycopodium or Clubmosses and Ground-Pines create their own understory along the ground within this beautiful hemlock forest.

Then I started to look at the ground and see where there were breaks in the trees, there was a miniature-scale hemlock forest. These small tree-like plants were in fact clubmosses, and they too provide cover and shade for smaller ground dwelling species.

South Valley Volunteers

We had 12 volunteers join us this past Friday and have had a great deal of help this season. We still have two surveys left, so if you are thinking of coming out, please join us!

In my moment of quiet reflection, I was quite astounded to think of all the services hemlocks provide to the forests and wildlife. Hemlocks are only one species, and they only make up a small percentage of northern forests. However, where they occur, they are a part of a much larger forest ecosystem that is completely interconnected. And these trees have had a habit of connecting many of us to the forests as well. We have had the highest amount of volunteerism this season, all due to this one kind of tree and a growing desire to protect them.

While HWA has made a large impact on many forests south of the Western New York region, we are working hard to ensure that doesn’t happen here. If you are interested in learning more about how we can slow the spread of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid please check out our events page and join us in our upcoming surveys!

Elyse Henshaw
Conservation Technician