Dr. David Foster, Director of the Harvard Forest, has begun a project to study the catastrophic death of oaks in forests on Martha’s Vineyard.
Foster and his students have begun their studies, hosted by the Arboretum, to investigate the pattern and cause of the oak mortality and the short and long-term changes to forest ecosystems in the Arboretum woodlands and the adjacent Frances Newhall Woods Preserve.
The Arboretum woodlands are at the epicenter of the oak die-off. Foster doesn’t view our woodlands as a damaged landscape that needs “fixing,” but as an opportunity to let nature take its course and document the changes. Since our dead trees will be left standing, our woodland landscape offers Foster an opportunity to explore how the forest recovers on its own. Through creating long-term study plots in the woodlands, and inventorying and mapping current landscape characteristics, Foster will help us develop an appropriate management plan for our woodlands.
View “Secrets of the Mud” a short video by Harvard Forest student Allison Gillette which explores the mystery of large scale tree decline, including Martha’s Vineyard oaks.