You’ve heard the saying before, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” In other words, something will always grow in, where something dies. The photo above is something I find all-too-often, especially on State Forest Preserve where huge swaths of hemlock stands are succumbing to hemlock woolly adelgid. A hemlock forest is like no other in that it creates a deep shade and cover from summer’s heat or winter’s deep snow. As the overstory or canopy of these trees give way and die, a carpet of black birch seedlings often fills the forest floor. I’m guessing 50 years from now, there will be quite a cohort of black birch stands in these mountains, growing from this wave of hemlock mortality. Some of today’s old red oak stands also share this similarity to black birch. Many of them grew after the American chestnut perished from Chestnut Blight in the early 20th Century. Nature abhors a vacuum. I am hopeful that “Nature” and technology are resilient and innovative and one day both hemlock & chestnut will return.

Ryan Trapani

Director of Forest Services

Catskill Forest Association