My eye caught upon this unique woodworking project at a friend’s house over Memorial Day weekend festivities. Eventually my appreciation was replaced by conversation, and I’m happy that my friend was willing to share a photograph of his handiwork with the Ohio Maple Site.
He was inspired to create the art piece by 2 primary literature sources. The first – an article in the academic journal PLOS ONE entitled “Four Centuries of Change in Northeastern United States Forests” – provided most of the tree composition data from 1600 to present at half century increments. The second – a book chapter entitled “New England’s Forest Landscape: Ecological Legacies and Conservation Patterns Shaped by Agrarian History” was authored by researchers at Harvard and a few other universities. This second resource provided data on forest cover percentages for the region over the same time span.
To focus more on the art itself, the height of each overall column represents the percentage of forest cover in the northeastern United States, which reached a low point in the mid-late 19th century. Each individual wooden panel tracks a common tree species or genus through time; from bottom to top: beech, oak, maple, hemlock, birch, pine, chestnut, ash, and fir. Chestnut notably disappears in the jump from 1850 to 1900 as a result of the chestnut blight, and ash will certainly be affected similarly during this time step from 2000 to 2050 due to the emerald ash borer.
But maple, oh maple! Maple has asserted its dominance throughout many portions of the northeastern United States, and maple now has more standing stock volume than any other species group region-wide. And it’s not even close. The reasons and driving factors are diverse, and perhaps someday we’ll write some posts to address the why of broad shifts in tree species composition. But for now, let’s just admire a truly unique and inspired piece of artwork that tells a story we can all appreciate.