Dear Roy (and NTS),
I wish you luck with finding old hemlocks. Your work could be a real boon in reconstructing past environments. Contacting NTS was a great idea. No doubt there are NTS who can help you with your project. I'm happy to help as you need, too.
This gives me a good opportunity to make you aware of a large-scale project to recover and save information locked away in hemlock trees before they are lost to HWA. Amy Hessl of West Virginia University (http://hessl.eberly.wvu.edu/
) and I have a paper accepted at Progress in Physical Geography http://ppg.sagepub.com/
. The main goal of the paper is to make a call to arms to document and recover information in old-growth hemlock forests. It seems like many people are stating to do this now. We hope to HeLP coordinate the collection and archiving of information and cores, especially in regions where HWA is currently taking down many trees (though I did get off the phone with a Smoky Mtn employee who had said he sees encouraging signs in the survival of some trees). Amy will have a PhD student coordinating the project. There will be a web site and a more formal announcement early in the fall (hopefully).
I wanted to give NTS a heads up as I thought of you the whole time we were putting this together. I can see NTS playing an important role in the success of this rather ambitious project. For some more information, below is the title of the paper and a draft of the abstract.
Hemlock Legacy Project (HeLP): A Paleoecological Requiem for Eastern Hemlock
Amy Hessl and Neil Pederson
Progress in Physical Geography http://ppg.sagepub.com/
Eastern North American forests have effectively lost two major tree species (American chestnut and American elm) in the last 100 years and two more, eastern and Carolina hemlock, will be functionally extinct over much of their ranges within a couple of decades. The loss of eastern hemlock is of particular concern because hemlock is: 1) a foundation species; 2) one of the longest-lived tree species over much of temperate eastern North America; and 3) sensitive to climatic variation and ecosystem disturbance, making it an ideal species for the reconstruction of environmental history. Unlike American chestnut, we have a small window of opportunity to salvage environmental histories from hemlock before they are lost. In this progress report, we review the extensive body of science derived from this paleoenvironmental archive and urge scientists from eastern North America to sample and archive old-growth hemlock while living and dead material remain. Here we describe a community-based approach to salvaging paleoenvironmental archives that could serve as a model for collections from other foundation species currently threatened by exotic forests pests and pathogens (e.g. whitebark pine, ash). The approach supports Schlesinger’s (2010)) call for “translational ecology” by building connections between scientists, students, environmental NGOs, and land managers focused on old-growth forests.