A wonderful reminder to get out enjoy the treasure that is our Southern forests…
Leaves are turning, days are getting shorter, temperatures are dropping and fall is in the air. I can’t think of a better time to put Southern forests in the forefront of our minds than at this time of year when they are at their most beautiful. Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains it is easy to look out at the purple skyline and remember how blessed I am to be in such a rich jewel of Southern forest biodiversity. My desire to be outside strangely tends to increase with the dropping temperatures because I can’t get enough of that magical smell of dried leaves, lungfulls of crisp air and hours taking in the bright scarlets, butter yellows and pumpkiny oranges of the trees against the blue sky.
So much time outside always prompts me to think more about forests and all that I get from them. Everyday commodities are obvious (Southern forests provide 20% of paper for the entire world), but my mind turns to some of the less obvious things I benefit from. For example, once while hiking in Hot Springs I stopped to rest and looked out over one of the amazing vistas on the trail and thought about how many gallons of water the trees I was looking at were holding. How many pounds of soil the roots held in place. How many tons of carbon were contained. How many floods had been prevented by each tree simply doing their everyday ecological functions, not to mention how many mudslides had been avoided, and with both of these things how much property damage had been avoided. The positive effects of letting a forest simply stand are so numerous it is hard to conceive of them all.
I often find that the best way to appreciate the ecological gifts we in the South have been blessed with is to get out and enjoy them. October is one of the best times to go hiking, in my opinion, because we get to see the forest this way for approximately one month. So make the most of your Southern forest this month, whether it is in the Appalachian Mountains, or a pine bog on the Gulf Coast or even just a stand of oaks in the park down the street from your house.
Love your forest, and it will love you back. Happy October.
By Adrienne Outcalt, Research Intern at Dogwood Alliance