What’s one way to get the public contributing to forest health? Give them the tools to pitch in

Guest post by Jake Rose

Changes in forest health in general occur gradually. Invasive species, for example, tend to spread slowly through a forest, little by little, year after year, gathering native plants and animals. Even after a sudden disruption of forest health, like a severe fire, it is not uncommon for forest ecosystems to take decades to recover.

Because most of the changes that occur in forests occur gradually over many years, it can be a challenge to design and measure those scale changes across parks, nature reserves, and other community green spaces. But what if outdoor creators — who already frequent these places — were able to help monitor forest health? This is the purpose of the Chronolog.

Two images: on the right is a Chronolog photo station, on the left is a man using the photo station to take a picture with a smartphone

Chronolog is a new community / citizen science project that helps researchers and land managers install photo stations in environmentally important locations. Using a photo station (pictured above), any citizen citizen can take photos from a standardized point of view and submit them for inclusion in a crowd-sourced pastime.

Crowded source time passages (like the one below) not only create new phenological data, but also involve the public in the scientific process. The effects of erosion, described fires, invasive plant species or changes in seasonal patterns can be shown through a visual story and by presenting personal photos, the public becomes part of that story.

Civic science projects like Chronolog have been proven to help increase scientific literacy. If a visitor makes a photo recording at a photo station or just spends a few minutes browsing the photo inventory online, chances are good that he or she is leaving the experience learning something about the forest or monitoring forest health.

Each photo submitted also helps environmental educators SHOW and not only TELL how the Earth is in a state of constant change. Forestry professionals, schoolteachers, and landowners – all of whom may be environmental educators – can use the passage of time to explain the benefits of forestry practices, such as prescribed fire and sustainable logging, as well as the effects of threats to forests, like the rise of the sea. invasive levels and species.

To give you a taste of what we mean, check out this case study:

Wildlife conservation Dyke Marsh, a 485-hectare reserve managed by the National Park Service, has been the focus of a local plant restoration project since 2018. At the beginning of the project, the mountain forest of the reservoir was covered with plants non-natives that were causing problems for both native plants and wildlife species.

In 2018, Friends of Dyke Marsh (FODM), in partnership with the National Park Service, Earth Sangha and the North Virginia Audubon Society, planted 4,000 native plants in the restoration area, a 0.65-acre plot on the west side of the trail of Haul Street. Throughout the following spring, summer, and fall, FODM held regular volunteer sessions to inspect non-native plants such as mile per minute (Persicaria perfoliata) and Japanese grass (Microstegium vimineum). By October 2019, FODM volunteers and National Park Service staff had planted 400 more native plants within the restoration area, including wild rye rye (Elymus riparius), New York iron grass (Vernonia noveboracensis) , wild rice (Zizania aquatica) and deer tongue (Dichanlithe tongue). clandestinum (sin. Panicum clandestinum)).

FODM has been able to determine the effectiveness of their native plant restoration efforts with the Chronolog monitoring project. Volunteers were able to see which plants were gradually turning and changing in the forest cover each summer, as well. Already, lessons learned from this passage of time have influenced the way future restoration projects are planned.

Anyone can use Chronolog’s website and photo time errors for free. If you are interested in becoming a Chronolog organizer and setting up a photo station near you, there is an annual cost. Click here to learn more.

Jake Rose is the Chronologist Coordinator. It can be reached at jake@chronolog.io.

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