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Delaware

Restoration Science

Sometimes, even in the conservation business, we can’t “see the forest for the trees,” as they say. That is, in theory, every tree – a piece of the nature we work to protect – is important. However, that isn’t always the case.

Take the Ponders Tract of the Pemberton Forest Nature Preserve, which The Nature Conservancy acquired from the Glatfelter Pulpwood Company in 2004. For many years, the timber company exclusively grew and harvested loblolly pine for use in the products. While good for profits, the practice choked out the coastal hardwood forest that was native to this part of Delaware.

Enter The Nature Conservancy.

“Soon after purchasing the parcel, we employed state-of-the-art timber thinning to release nearly 240 acres of hardwoods from loblolly pine competition to encourage a more natural mixed pine-hardwood forest,” says John Graham, the Conservancy’s Land Steward in Delaware.

Now, almost a decade later, hardwoods continue to compete with the pine. In response, the Conservancy is in the process of inventorying the forest to analyze the state of the tract’s hardwood community and determine which locations are ripe for further targeted thinning. After that, the Conservancy will craft a restoration strategy which will include removing more pines, likely next Spring.

“We have a pretty good idea of where the competition ceiling has been hit,” says Brian Boutin, the Delaware Chapter’s Director of Conservation Science. “It is a great step in moving forward with our original intent for the Ponders Tract.”

These actions will not only benefit the coastal hardwood forest striving to establish itself. A diversity of wildlife is expected to follow suit.

Adds Graham, “A mixed coastal forest community serves as a crucial stopover for neo-tropical birds, and small, scattered wetlands and vernal pools support an array of reptile and amphibian species. It will be great to bring it all back.”

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