By Jessica Keith
The forests of the Central Appalachians burst with life this time of year. Trees like maple and oak blossom. Shrubs such as rhododendron show off pink and white blooms. Fishers, deer and squirrels scamper about while black bears awaken from deep slumber. Migratory birds chirp, heralding their homecoming. It’s spring in the heart of the Appalachian Mountain range.
Meanwhile, 8,000 miles away the scene feels much the same in China’s Yunnan Province.
Well, mostly the same, explains Thomas Minney, The Nature Conservancy’s Central Appalachian program manager. “You see so many of the same plants we have, but then you spot a monkey in the rhododendron!”
Nestled in the heart of the Appalachian Mountain range, the Central Appalachians boast one of the most biologically rich, temperate broadleaf deciduous forests in the world. In fact, Minney says, it’s second only to that of China’s. It’s this connection that’s driving Minney and teams of scientists in both the United States and China to exchange knowledge about their approach to conservation—especially in the face of shared threats.
“We’re both interested in how climate change is going to alter the landscape,” says Minney. “So my counterparts in China applied the same analysis we used here to help identify the areas that will be most resilient to climate change.
The results will help them prioritize conservation efforts.”
Scientists from the Conservancy’s U.S. program are also able to share information about forest health with scientists in China, where thousands of years of civilization have made forest degradation a serious issue.
Minney says that he intends to continue to foster a relationship with his colleagues overseas. “When they think about how best to protect and restore broadleaf deciduous forests, they’ll be able to look overseas to the Central Appalachians as a benchmark.”