Aspen tree species, while native to the Albany Pine Bush, have become massively overabundant throughout the preserve in the absence of sufficiently frequent fire. These species are clonal, meaning that they spread rapidly and grow quickly through root suckering, and are able to out compete other less common and more desirable pine barrens species like scrub oak, pitch pine, blueberries, and wild blue lupine. Additionally, their dense closed canopies create a micro climate that is less attractive to important pine barrens wildlife species of concern, including the federally endangered Karner Blue Butterfly. Once mature aspen trees have taken over an area, they preclude fire from being able to be used for restoration because the fire will not burn under the damp closed canopy. Aspen trees must therefore be eliminated in other ways before the habitat can be returned to a true pitch pine-scrub oak pine barrens ecosystem comprised of all of the rare plants and animals that make the Albany Pine Bush Preserve such a unique and special place. After restoration is complete, aspen trees will continue to be present in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, although in much smaller numbers.
For many years the task of removing aspen trees has been accomplished throughout the interior of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve using a mechanical technique called girdling. Please visit our website for more information on aspen girdling. Girdling is not an appropriate methodology to use near roads or preserve property boundaries because this procedure results in standing dead aspen trees which will eventually rot in place and then fall down unpredictably. In order to remove roadside and boundary aspen trees, this year we have hired professional contractors to cut these trees down. This accomplishes our goal of restoring habitat back to pitch pine-scrub oak barrens in a more controlled way.
While the changes that you’ll see along the preserve roadsides might look abrupt, they are being made with the Albany Pine Bush Preserve’s ecological goals and ideals foremost in mind. The late fall and early winter is a time of year when birds and other animals are least likely to be harmed by these activities as nesting and young rearing activities are complete, and in fact, bringing nutrient rich tree buds down to ground level will provide a temporary additional food source for many animals. Additionally, the tangle of branches at ground level will provide a temporary habitat for a variety of animals both this winter and next summer before the branches and trunks rapidly decompose in place.
Restoration is an often messy and at times unsightly process, but one that is critical to the protection and advancement of the globally rare inland pine barrens ecosystem that we are so fortunate to have here in our own backyards. We hope that you recognize that this is a necessary process and will grow to enjoy the beauty and majesty that the long term results of our restoration in this special place will bring.
If you’d like more information about our current management practices please contact Stewardship Director, Joel Hecht at firstname.lastname@example.org