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Posts Tagged ‘john muir’

Just a few centuries ago, tall white pines dominated Nova Scotia’s landscape.  Most were ten stories high but several even reached fifteen stories in height.  Looking at the much shorter firs and spruce that make up the majority of our woods now, it’s hard to believe that the landscape here was once so different. 

Nova Scotia 1817 by J.E. Woolford in the Nova Scotia Museum collection

Sketch of Forests near Halifax circa 1817

The first settlers from Europe must have been awestruck by the majesty of the forests they encountered.  But they soon logged them and cleared the way for agriculture.  Today, old growth forests are found on less than 1% of the province’s land. 

In Cow Bay and nearby Eastern Passage, tracts of forest continue to be cleared to make way for residential development.  Most of the time, the trees are removed to facilitate construction.  Isolated trees that are left standing die within a few years as they are shallow rooted and top heavy, due to spending most of their life stabilized by other trees in a stand.

Clearing near Flandrum Hill offers a view of Osborne Head

Trees that are fifteen stories high don’t reach that height overnight.  White pine have a lifespan of up to 450 years.  Eastern hemlock can live up to 800 years.  By cutting down an old growth forest, it’s almost ridiculous to say that you’ve done the planet some good by planting a thousand new seedlings.  Yet, incentives created to fight climate change often give points for new plantings while ignoring the destruction of old trees.

Biodiversity thrives in old growth forests.  Many species of plants (mosses and orchids) and animals (barred owls, wood ducks, fishers and American martens) depend on old large trees for their survival.  Some creatures nest in the cavities of standing trees, while others make dens beneath large trees that have fallen to the ground.   

As I write this, I can hear wind gusts of up to 75 km/hr (47 mi/hr)  thrashing the firs and spruce back and forth outside my window.  They’re shallow rooted and susceptible to coming down in strong winds.  The only white pine in the yard was planted by me almost 20 years ago and is protected in a stand.  If it’s allowed to reach its life expectancy, it will likely provide a home for wildlife in 2440.

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods.  But he cannot save them from fools. 
 ~John Muir

For more information about Old Growth Forests, see Nova Scotia Nature Trust’s pdf on the subject.

Details of the 1817 J.E. Woolford image of Nova Scotia woods can be found at the Nova Scotia Museum Collection.

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tree stump on beach

Tree stumps have a beauty all their own.  If you only see them as remnants of the beautiful green trees they once were, you might miss it.  See the movement in the roots above, the way they turn around the centre as if they are dancing.  The salt water that touches their tips at high tide will never quench their thirst, but it matters not.  Their thirst these days is for the music in the winds and the songs of seagulls.

tree stump in woods

Covered in moss in damp woods, this stump was in a state of decay when I first saw it twenty years ago in my backyard.  It’s still providing hiding places for tiny mammals and a surface for lichens to grow on.  There’s no reason to rush its demise from the forest floor. 

stone stump

This stump found behind Rainbow Haven beach has been doused in salt water so many times over the years, that it looks and feels more like stone than wood.  I can barely conjure up the image of the boughed tree it once was.  I even wonder if it remembers birds singing in its branches, rain falling on its leaves or warm summer breezes swaying it softly in the sunshine.

Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.  ~John Muir

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