Thursday, January 25, 2007

Old Forest Roads

Although the original purchase of land for the Franics Beidler Forest contained almost 1800 acres of virgin, old-growth forest, the rest of Four Holes Swamp has been logged. Some logging roads were built out into the swamp. They remain and their effects, mainly the impediment to flowing water, are easily seen. Skidder tracks are harder to discern, except when rain water collects in the low areas (see image).

Elsewhere in our state and country, forest roads appear to have a negative effect even after they have been abandoned. Dr. Raymond Semlitsch, professor of biology at the University of Missouri, studied and reported (here and The Forestry Source, Dec 2006) the effect of forest roads on woodland salamanders. Plant ecologists have documented that road edges receive more sunlight and wind, which has a drying effect on the micro-climate. The study of marco- and micro-invertebrates near roads showed that the "road-effect zone" extended farther than the 35 meters Dr. Semlitsch determined for the salamanders. Since salamanders eat the invertebrates and prefer a cool, damp environment, the absence of food and suitable habitat would certainly have a negative effect on the salamanders.

"The big implication is that, not only do existing roads have effects that go beyond their roadside boundaries, but that these 80-year-old roads that have been abandoned have long-lasting effects, too," Semlitsch said. "So, if you're constantly laying down new roads, you're fragmenting the forest into smaller and smaller parcels." He suggested reusing forest roads, since the footprint has already been established.

No comments: