Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reading a Landscape: Part I

My introduction to reading a landscape was the book, Reading the Forested Landscape:  A Natural History of New England, which I borrowed from Cornell Outdoor Education’s library (thanks, COE!).  This book showed how to recognize the signs of both natural events, such as blow down and beaver activity, and human actions, such as logging and pasturing, based on telling signs.

On our first nature walk as a group, we talked through one of the landscapes in our own backyard.

What can we see and learn from this forest vista?

The bluffs and ridges all around the Coromandel were formed by volcanic activity.  This is interesting to me, because many of the hills here remind me of the hills around Ithaca, which were formed via glacial activity, and the ridges here remind me of the Adirondack High Peaks, which were formed via tectonic movements.

You can see from the picture that different trees grow on the ridgelines compared to the sides of the ridges.  In this landscape, kauri and celery pine grow on the ridges, while kanuka grows on the hillsides.

Different trees fill different ecological niches.  The ridgelines are exposed to more light, but also are exposed to more wind and have poorer quality, more acidic soils.  Overall, there is probably less competition between plant species on the ridges than the hillsides.  On the protected hillsides, the soil is a higher quality, and opportunistic species have filled the valleys.

The trees on these hillsides are relatively small, indicating that the forest is young and still early in its process of succession.  When you are walking through the forest on these hillsides, there is a lot of smaller trees, densely packed.  There was definitely human disturbance which wiped out the old growth forest that preceded this relatively young forest.

Unfortunately, I’m not nearly as good at reading a landscape as I would like to be.  Even more unfortunately, I think reading a landscape is a dead or dying art.  I hope this series of posts will be a small stand against that trend.

1 comment:

  1. That's an excellent book! I met the author back in my days as a budding forester. Hopefully you could find some locals that are familiar with the landscape to teach you a thing or to.