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Thursday, October 8, 2020

Big Reed Forest Preserve

 This morning, I woke up at 7am in a Hannafords parking lot out in Bar Harbor, ME. A strong cup of coffee later, and I was en route to Big Reed Forest Reserve in northern Maine, which is the largest contiguous virgin forest in New England. In total, it took over 5 hours to get there - 2 of which were spent driving on 75 miles of dirt logging road. Although I visited last year, I hadn’t had a chance to explore as much as I wanted. Today, I saw the best example of true virgin forest of I’ve ever experienced, and that’s saying a lot. Giant sugar maple, red spruce, American beech, American ash, slippery elm, white pine, and yellow birch were large, spaced out and in some cases dying of old age. Because of the harsh northern conditions, old-growth trees here are often smaller than found in points south, though, every so often you’ll see a giant. The preserve holds the largest red spruce, hop hornbeam and slippery elm I’ve ever seen. In fact, some hop hornbeam here has been dated to 400 years old! When you enter the forest, you immediately see deep tip-up mounds from giant trees fallen over. You notice fungi everywhere, and large tall trees with gnarly wind-swept crowns and trunks straight as an arrow.  Despite the near dearth of people who visit or even know about this site, and it’s distance from any nearby town, American beech is nearly entirely gone from sudden beech bark disease, which humans introduced to America; and the increase in moose herbivory was all around due to human’s eliminating its main predators. Thus, this is one glaring example that humans don’t have to directly touch a site for these larger anthropogenic stressors to impact them.