NY Route 5, Fayetteville, New York
The newly formed Eastern New York survey team was in central New York on Saturday, November 17, 2001 to investigate sites in Green Lakes State Park on NY 5 in Fayetteville east of Syracuse. After phone conversation with Park Manager John Livingston, the survey team arranged to meet park ranger Sean Wood at 11am. Sean guided us on visits to three old growth sites (see map):
The survey team began a site inventory, which includes a species profile, height and girth measures of major trees, core sample for tree ring dating, and other site conditions characteristic of old-growth (see data). The survey team was joined at Green Lakes by Tom Howard and Bob Henry, community foresters in North Syracuse who documented other old growth stands in central New York, including The Wizard of Oz Memorial Oak Forest next to North Syracuse Junior High School.
The area southwest of Round Lake is a sheltered, rather flat bench perhaps 20-30 feet higher than the lake. The deep, narrow valley contains a few acres of notable ancient trees and significant old growth characteristics. Nearly all big trees are Hemlock and Tulip Poplar, with a marked deficiency of other species. The survey team did find one very large Red Oak, one large Sugar Maple, and a few moderate size Basswood. This lack of species diversity indicates hardwoods were logged in the mid-1800's, leaving softwood Hemlocks, after which Tulip Poplars took over and grew to their remarkable heights.
Based on diameter alone, these trees are 150 to 250 years old. One large hemlock was selected and Fred Breglia extracted a tree ring core with an increment borer. This core sample proved to have approximately 330 rings—much more than anticipated. The rings showed clear evidence of extreme swings in growth rates—slow years with close spaced rings followed by a few years of widely spaced rings of rapid growth.
However, these trees are remarkably tall—over 100 feet. Several tulip poplars topped 130 feet—near the maximum for their species. This creates a high canopy that is a key old growth characteristic. It seems a thick deposit of alluvial soil, combined with shelter in a deep valley, allows these trees to achieve high growth rates and heights.
A significant number of downed trees are slowly rotting—many of them beech trees. A few of these that had been sliced to clear the trail, so the survey team counted rings to find them in the 100-150 year range. We saw few snags, and the amount of woody debris was minimal to satisfy old growth criteria. A few small trees with stilted roots were observed, such as the yellow birch at left.
The survey team was disappointed by a lack of species diversity in the understory, with few small trees, hardly any shrubbery, and only a scattering of ferns—perhaps a consequence of deer browsing. However, November is not the time of year to assess this aspect of an old growth community.
Fred Breglia confirmed that white cedars growing at Reef Point on Green Lake are probably a few centuries old. The way cedars grow makes it difficult to date them by simple tree ring counts. For more on these ancient cedar communities, see: Cliffs as natural refuges.
On steep south slopes between Green and Round Lakes, Fred Breglia counted 150 rings on a red oak stump, which makes it likely the area contains ancient trees and old growth characteristics.
Home | Membership | Earth Charter | Climate | Champion Trees | Ancient Forests | Topsoil | Food | Wildlife | Water | Sacred Space | Healing | Peace | Links
TERRA: The Earth Restoration and Renewal Alliance — www.championtrees.org — updated 5/25/2002