Are Harvard's Dying Hemlocks a Warning for Trees Everywhere?
Snowshoeing through Harvard Forest is a chance to ponder the fate of forests on a rapidly warming planet.
His snowshoes crunching on a crust of ice, David Orwig tromped through the woods at Harvard Forest one afternoon in early March. After a bone-chilling February, the air—20°F (-7°C) and no wind—felt almost balmy. Sunshine snuck through the canopy, making the ice crystals glimmer. It was a perfect day in the woods—if you ignored the fact that all around, the trees were basically ghosts.
The hemlocks here teem with a pest that’s slowly killing them; their demise is all but inevitable. “I’m hoping some will survive,” said Orwig, the forest’s senior ecologist, “but we’re on borrowed time.”
Harvard’s forest, 70 miles (113 kilometers) west of the university’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is not alone. These are troubling