Old-Growth Forests Bring New Life

This Saturday, November 2nd, Heritage Conservancy and Doylestown Township will celebrate the dedication of Hart’s Woods Preserve into the Old-Growth Forest Network! This 20-acre portion of woods is a classic Eastern hardwood climax mature forest populated by massive American beech and oak trees and younger species like red maple and tulip poplar. So what exactly is an old-growth forest, and why is it important?

Simply put, an old-growth forest is exactly as it sounds: it’s a forest that has been growing undisturbed for a long time. In the case of Hart’s Woods, parts of it have been growing for up to 300 years! This is not an easy feat; not only do forests have to avoid the negative impact of humans, like deforestation, but the area must be completely devoid of natural disasters, such as fires and windstorms.

To the trained eye, an old-growth forest can be easily spotted. For example, the crowns of old trees are twisted and asymmetrical, with thicker–yet fewer–upper limbs. There is also a wider range of tree age, size, and species. If there are old oaks and tulip poplar trees around–as is the case with Hart’s Woods–their barks become smooth or “bald”. The floor is uneven due to years and years of trees falling and decomposing, creating acres of mounds and pits.

Even with all of these indicators, we haven’t yet discussed the biggest difference between old-growth forests and their younger counterparts; this is actually found in the form of ecosystems. The lack of disturbance in older forests enables a vast network of species to develop and thrive, creating an area rich in biodiversity, lending to a greater number of interior forest bird species, insects, amphibians, mosses, fungi and lichens.

We shared what makes old-growth forest unique, however, all forests are important as they are a natural defense against stormwater runoff, air pollution, and water pollution. And add to that the benefits that they give us humans in terms of increased physical and mental health!

The existence of organizations like the national Old-Growth Forest Network is vital, as we must recognize and celebrate these landscapes across the country. In doing so, we enhance our awareness of their importance and help other forests achieve the same milestone. We at the Conservancy are honored that one of our properties is being dedicated amongst the oldest and grandest!

Join us on Saturday, November 2, 2019, from 1:00: PM to 3:00 PM to celebrate this dedication! Click HERE to learn more.