The boreal forest, or taiga, is found in the northern reaches around the globe. This constitutes one of the largest forests, making it a crucial part of conversations around climate change, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, water quality, and human needs. The trees and other organisms are especially adapted to the cold, dry conditions and as a result are often stunted. In Alaska, conifers, primarily black spruce and white spruce, dominate accompanied by deciduous trees including birch, aspen, and cottonwood. The mid and understory layers contain a multitude of trees, shrubs, forbs, graminoids, and moss/lichen blankets.
Monica Kopp (CLM), Samantha Snodgrass (CLM), Tim Skiba (BLM Forester), and I got to experience the boreal magic firsthand. We ventured up to Eagle, located in Interior Alaska, just before the winter snows block the passes. Eagle may be tiny, but also boasts a greater percentage of museum per square foot than just about anywhere within historic Fort Egbert. The town is also rimmed with soft mountains and bordered by the mighty Yukon River. Our main focus was to conduct a forest inventory using the national Forest Vegetation Inventory System (FORVIS) protocol. There are a number of parameters collected relating to the general characteristics, forest type, vegetation cover, and tree measurements. We determined what trees to measure by using a 10-factor prism. Each tree that met the size requirements was identified then measured for diameter at breast height, height, crown to height ratio, and age using an inclement borer to collect a core sample. Forest inventories such as these are important for informing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) management in their decision making processes. A definite highlight was having the opportunity to talk with the upper grades at the local Eagle School. The students there were studying forest succession and especially enjoyed getting outside to meet and measure trees. Their looks of delight of seeing the cores come out said it all- pretty cool to age a tree.
Happy trails, Kim Hack