-by Arianne Hemlein
It’s September 12 and in Umstead the yellow crownbeard are flowering, ripe muscadine grapes are dropping to the ground, and the bright orange heads of American Caesar’s mushrooms are poking up from the leaf litter. The park is temporarily closed, the parking lot is empty, and an unusually strong breeze is tossing the treetops and scattering pine needles and leaves down the trails. A hurricane is coming.
We are all aware of the potentially destructive effects of strong storms on our parks. We are saddened to see mature trees toppled across trails and may be denied entrance to the park for days, weeks, or months as cleanup ensues. As you prepare for upcoming storms, you can set aside your worry for Umstead. Rest in the knowledge that there are beneficial effects of hurricanes on our woodlands.
For instance, the strong winds that wreak havoc on man-made structures also scatter seeds far and wide, thus assuring diversity of species. If a strong gust sends a mature tree toppling to the ground, it leaves a large gap in the tree canopy allowing the sun to reach the understory. This way, there is an opportunity for new growth and the promotion of sun-loving species in a formerly shady environment. According to an article on the website, Sciencing.com, “Such cycling of vegetation communities is called succession, and it promotes biodiversity by giving more species the chance to occupy a given ecosystem and maintaining landscape mosaics of greater complexity”.
As for the abundant rains that can cause disastrous flooding, they provide much needed moisture to vegetation during the typically dry late summer months when our area usually experiences drought.
So, while we may not throw out a welcome mat for the next hurricane, at least we can take solace in the knowledge that our much-loved park will reap some benefits.
See you on the trails!
For more information on the positive effects of hurricanes on ecosystems, please consult the following articles, which I used for reference:
Positive Effects of Hurricanes
Great Storm:The Healing Power of Nature