A walk in Cornwall’s Cathedral Pines
CORNWALL —The tornadoes that decimated Cathedral Pines Park in 1989 continue to shape the development of the forest to this day. On Saturday, Aug. 27, Peter del Tredici led a nature walk entitled “The Ecology of Destruction” to discuss the ongoing regrowth occurring within the park.
Del Tredici described himself as “a combination of botany, horticulture and ecology all in one neat package.”
His expertise on the area’s plants and trees, as well as decades studying Cathedral Pines Park, made for an informative morning in the woods. A group of more than 20 people attended the educational hike to learn about the dynamics of forest succession.
The tornadoes did considerable damage to the pine and hemlock trees 33 years ago, uprooting many within the park and taking the tops off of those still standing.
“This is no longer a forest of pines,” del Tredici explained. “New pines require wide-open space.… We would need to clear the land to create an empty seed bed for pines to regrow.”
What was once New England’s largest stand of old-growth pines and hemlocks is no more. Today, new growth is arriving in the form of black birch trees.
Black birch is not an invasive species here. In fact, del Tredici’s studies have shown that there are virtually no invasive species within Cathedral Pines Park.
The black birch saplings seen throughout the park represent the next generation of life.
“Black birch is the tree of the future in Cornwall,” said del Tredici.
New growth shows how resilient the forests truly are and their ability to recover from destructive events such as a tornado. There are other disturbances, however, that are not as easily overcome.
“Climate change is a high-stress disturbance that will never end,” he said.
Del Tredici said that a rapidly changing climate means it is no longer possible to make predictions for what will happen in our ecosystems. Rather, he advised we must trust that the forests are adapting to the changes of our climate.
“True ecology,” he said, “is letting nature run its course.”