Nature and culture intertwine at my place in Centennial Woods through the land use of the area. Centennial Woods is a place rich in biodiversity that also serves the community in two ways. One is the ecosystem services that provides clean air, carbon sequestration, and water filtration, which all bolsters human health in the area. The second is recreation for humans, which provides a place to enjoy nature, help mental illness, and re-center oneself. The woods provided both a healthy habitat for organisms as well as humans.
I do not consider myself part of my place. I am but a visitor traveling through to enjoy the nature beauty, but I must return to my respected place and leave no trace of my presence. Respecting the forest and the wildlife means I am to look and not touch, allowing the cycles of the natural world to continue uninterrupted. I do not interact with the place besides from the occasional visit. I do not mange the biodiversity nor do I actively manage the forest and trails. Thus I am not a part of my place. Observing phenological changes, I have come to understand my sense of place within the natural world and that is as not its caretaker, but as its protector against the transgressions of my species.
A light breeze ruffles through the branches, as I make my way to my blog spot. I whistle a chickadee song through the trees and to my surprise one answers back. I walk into the clearing that houses my spot and immediately stop. To my left two gray squirrels chase each other, probably either trying to mate or looking for food. Looking around I see that my spot hasn’t changed much since the last time I was here. Although, the understory has started to leaf and moss has covered the deciduous trees. Spring has finally decided to show itself in my sit spot.
The hot sun was blaring down my neck as I trudged through the humidity and mud to make it to my blog spot. Arriving, I saw the barren landscape of my spot that was no longer covered in snow. Around me the only color was the year long needles of the pine and the few ferns growing on the ground. Searching I found no signs of budding on the trees or wildflowers growing on the ground. As I began to leave I heard bird songs through the trees reminding me that even though my spot is barren, spring will beset the area with life.
My favorite forest is also reclaimed land. In the picture below, underneath the snow, a rock wall hides going up the hill in a stacked pattern. This piece of evidence that I played on as a child is evidence of the land’s previous natural history. The open spaces with large oaks that have turned into wolf trees at the top show that the hill used to be a farmscape. The rock wall was perhaps from a time making the territory of a farming who would either plant crops or graze cows or sheep. After the farm was abandoned the stages of succession took over changing the grassland to a soft wood pine forest and then the longer living hardwoods took over. In present day the understory is attempting to come back among the wild raspberries, blueberries, and brambles. And, if left untouched the forest will become an old climax hardwood forest. Before the farmscape natural history it is impossible to tell from the surroundings, although one can look at the natural history of New England and presume the harvesting of pines occurred in correlation with The Great Cutover.
Trudging through the snow, I come to my favorite forest at home. On a hill surrounded by Eastern White Pines, a hardwood White and Red Oak forest sits. With a sparse understory of pine and hemlock this forest has wide open spaces where leafy blueberries and small prickly raspberries grow in the summer. I love this place as it shows how great natural barriers are with preventing erosion, and it was a perfect place for a younger me to learn about hydrology.
Comparing this forest to the one of my original phenology spot is comparing two different types of ecosystems. My spring temporary favors sun and hardwoods over my original which favors soft pines and shaded areas of undergrowth. They’re both found on hills which speaks to how well-drained and composition of the soils needed to hold roots. My original spot showed tons of evidence of mammals higher biodiversity, than my spring temporary spot which only shows signs of Turkeys passing through and the occasional song bird heard through the trees.
A crow cries out across the forest, the only bird call I hear. It’s a stark difference from when I had first stopped to marvel at its beauty in the fall, with the songs of birds ringing throughout the forest. The trees from the understory are barren, as well as the ground which has lost all its woody species. The branches of the pines are also noticeably dryer than they were before winter. The inaccessible water from the snow with the lack of humidity has caused the trees to become brittle to the touch. The precipitation levels are still the same just in a different state of matter. The substrate has thus changed from the fertile soft forest floor it once was to a cold hard dirt with no decomposition in progress, limiting the amount of humus at this time.
Looking at Wetland, Woodland, Wildland in the Champlain Valley, I discovered that the natural community of my phenological site is a White Pine-Red Oak-Black Oak Forest. I discovered this through looking at the composition of the forest around my site, which was mostly Eastern White Pine, and looking at the landscape layers of Centennial Woods. The landscape layers of Centennial are that of sand, from the Glacier Lake Vermont which washed up a sand plain. But, Pine-Oak-Heath Sandplain Forest are only on flatlands while White Pine-Red Oak-Black Oak Forest are on slopes near the sand plain. My spot sits on a slope making it the latter with a majority species of pine.