Reforestation at TWC Headquarters
A few weeks back our conservation staff and some hard-working volunteers planted 4,050 trees on a parcel of land here at our headquarters. The reforestation project will convert this 10 acre parcel from agricultural use to valuable early-succession forest habitat.
The project was made possible through a grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The NRCS coordinates a number of programs that help private land owners reach their particular conservation goals. This includes reforestation projects such as our own, the Wetland Reserve program which helps in the restoration and creation of wetlands, and the Conservation Reserve Program in which rental payments to farmers are made to take environmentally sensitive areas out of crop production.
With this funding, our conservation team planted red oak, white oak, shagbark hickory, black walnut, black cherry, swamp white oak, bur oak, and yellow poplar throughout the field adjacent to Sigrist Woods. These native species are very valuable to wildlife and planting these trees allows us to recreate a species composition which would not otherwise be possible with completely natural succession.
If you are out at TWC, you will easily be able to spot this restoration area. The grant for this project required that tree shelters be placed around the seedlings. Tree shelters are designed to protect seedlings and accelerate early growth, and it is hard to miss this field of blue tubes as you travel down Alabama Avenue.
Field studies of tree shelters have documented increased growth rates averaging 100-150% when compared to trees grown without the use of shelters. The shelters create a microclimate surrounding each seedling – increasing humidity, raising CO2 levels, blocking harmful UV light, and amplifying beneficial blue light effects.
Perhaps most importantly, the seedlings are protected from browsing by rodents, rabbits, and other herbivores during critical early growth, maximizing seedling survival. This is the main reason that tree shelters were installed for this reforestation project. The deer and rabbit population at TWC is extensive. Without tree shelters we would have a survival rate of less than 20%. Deer and rabbits love to eat the young delicious buds on the trees giving them a poor chance at survival. With these shelters we will likely see a survival rate over 80%. They are vital to the survival of the trees in their early life.
The shelters will be on the trees for 5 years; a very short period of time in the big picture of a trees life. The next time you drive down Alabama Avenue, we hope the field of blue will bring a smile to your face as you consider the beautiful trees that will tower there one day.