Monroe County New York Native

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Monroe County New York Native

Post by MikeK » Tue Nov 22, 2022 1:12 pm

Hello, my name is Mike and in the past few years have become very interested in forest ecology. I've been an outdoor recreationalist and naturalist most of my life, but I've really put a lot of effort in recently to learning dendrology (and some botany) as well as trying to understand the relationships within the forested environment.

Most of my study was based around the Adirondack Park here in New York, because it is the place I love the most. I've found that I just don't get there enough to study it like I want to, so I've taken to studying what is closer to me and thus, more accessible. As such I've taken a shine to a few particular areas of old(er) growth that I would like to monitor and study into the future. While there are many different environments I love to visit, many have been heavily influenced by human activity in this area, and thus lack the wild, true natural aspect I desire to understand.

Recently I've tried to start the process of both educating myself and getting permission to do long-term, dendrochronological (and perhaps other) studies on a place known as Gosnell Big Woods in Webster, NY. The site is fairly exceptional for the area and definitely has some sections of relatively undisturbed old-growth. Some sections may have been selectively logged, or even cleared back in the mid 19th century, but I intend to try to confirm this over time. My goal is to be able to collect ring data from this stand as it loses trees as there is an easement which would likely restrict live coring. Also, some of these trees are very precious to this area (extremely rare in size and likely age) so personally I feel a non-invasive approach is best.

Some prior research has been done in this respect, and I was able to correspond with a local field botanist and professor (who is now retired), Dr. Bruce Gilman, who had headed that. Unfortunately the work was not published but I think it is a good starting point for me. He was able to confirm from one sampling after the 1992 ice storm the presence of very uneven-aged hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) up to 440 years old and American beech (Fagus grandifolia) up to 199 years old. Dr. Gilman had only sampled trees killed in that storm.

The beech don't give a very compelling age, because this area was settled late 1700s to early 1800s (trying to confirm the exact history of this with a local historian) but the hemlock were definitely here pre-European settlement. Perhaps there was selective logging during the initial settlement? And perhaps later in the mid-1800s as I said above. But it seems the stand has been undisturbed since then. While it would be nice if somehow I could confirm this was all relatively undisturbed forest, it might actually be better if I can confirm an archaic forest and an even-aged, but old stand (the species composition and aerial images somewhat point to this). This would be ideal for long-term monitoring to see how the stand might persist close to what it is in composition, or revert to a more classic, high shade tolerant maple-beech-hemlock stand, which is what we see in other areas.

There are also some issues that should be monitored. Beech bark disease is present and has taken some beech, although some seem surprisingly healthy, and likely old. Emerald ash borer and hemlock woolly adelgid are both present in the area and have already done serious damage to the ash population. The mature hemlocks may survive, but I think many understory hemlocks are being defoliated and lost. This may affect stand composition into the future, and perhaps the most prominent aspect of the old growth. Deer browse is a known issue in the area and I'm told there are plans by the town to try to fence the area. The understory is seriously lacking except for sparse clumps of grass and Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) except around the creeks and in low, moist areas. From what I've learned recently this seems like classic signs of invasive worm damage. No research has been done on this.

Anyone that is interested in learning more about what I intend to do, or becoming involved (or diverting my efforts elsewhere), please let me know.

My personal background is not in biology but mechanical engineering. I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2007 and worked in the automotive industry until 2018. I've since decided to avoid returning to that industry for many reasons, first and foremost are environmental. My current concerns in life involve community, heritage and environment less than machines; thus my focus today. I hope I can bring my knowledge and intuition from engineering into my study of the environment.

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Re: Monroe County New York Native

Post by dbhguru » Wed Nov 23, 2022 9:48 am


Welcome aboard. We value the work you are doing and look forward to many productive conversations. You and I apparently share similar feelings for the Adirondacks. The area is so vast and has so much primary forest in all size chunks. However, the Dacks are a 4-hour trip for me , so I focus locally most of the time and have very special places visit and study.

I had not heard of Gosnell Big Woods, but am not that surprised at its existence. It would be good to compute a height Rucker Index for the property. If you browse the NTS BBS and website, you'll quickly see that tree height measuring has long been our speciality. Beyond individual tree dimensions, some of us are heavy into measuring carbon storage and rates of sequestration in forests of all ages these days. A big climate benefit of a place like Gosnell is probably the amount of carbon that is has accumulated. If you'd like to add carbon to your area of research, please let's talk further.

Regardless, welcome aboard.

Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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Re: Monroe County New York Native

Post by bbeduhn » Wed Nov 23, 2022 10:51 am


Gosnell has been visited by NTS. It is a mix of old growth and second growth. The Rucker Index takes the ten tallest measured species and averages them into a height index for 5 and 10 trees, sometimes to 20 or 30 or more. A simple way to get started would would be to obtain a Rucker girth index for ten species. With old growth, it could be significant.

Central Lowlands
Measurer: Elijah Whitcomb
RHI 10 = 122.75' 37.41m
RHI 5 = 129.80' 39.56m

1. tuliptree L. tulipifera 150.1' 45.75m
2. sugar maple A. saccharum 127.0' 38.71m
3. white ash F. americana 125.3' 38.19m
4. black cherry P. serotina 125.2' 38.16m
5. E hemlock Ts. canadensis 121.4' 37.00m
6. N red oak Q. rubra 120.1' 36.60m
7. red maple A. rubrum 117.5' 35.81m
8. A beech F. grandifolia 117.1' 35.69m
9. A basswood T. americana 115.0' 35.05m
10. black birch B. lenta 108.8' 33.16m


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Re: Monroe County New York Native

Post by MikeK » Wed Nov 23, 2022 1:13 pm

Hi guys, thanks for the welcome.

Perhaps I should start a new thread about this, I have a number of images and pictures to talk about. I knew about the measurements on this site and have them in spreadsheet for reference.

Bob - you may know Gosnell by its former name, Hale's woods, as it appears in Mary Bird Davis' book "Old Growth in the East: A Survey", and I'd assume others before it. I will say the information in that book is not entirely correct. It reference a 525 yo hemlock which I believe is quoted from Bruce Kershner - as far as I know that's an estimate. The oldest I know of confirmed with coring is 440 years and that died in 1992. Still very significant.

I've also seen you on the "New England Forests" films from Ray Asselin, which I enjoy very much! I'd love to make some educational videos about significant and rare ecological or geological communities in this area... perhaps a lofty ambition, but a thought...

As far as carbon measures, I'm sure there'd be a way to estimate based on this forest, although I will say it's quite small. I'm trying to see if I can get Dr. Gilman's field notes from 30 years ago when he surveyed as I'd be able to resurvey and measure changes. The forest is losing a lot of trees, so that could be a significant factor as well that would need to be estimated. I'm very much interested in nutrient and carbon flux in these old forests!

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