Healthy forests have trees of various species and various ages. They have native shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers. They may contain cold water streams, vernal pools, and other wetlands.
In other words, healthy forests have an assortment of habitats that support a diversity of native wildlife.
SVT and our colleagues in the Metrowest Conservation Alliance place a priority on protecting—and restoring—forest health. We have held educational walks at local conservation lands to teach others how to "read" a forest and determine whether or not it is healthy.
Forest Health Toolkit
SVT and MCA also created Forest Health Toolkit that helps conservation commissions and local land trusts assess the health of their wooded properties and make decisions about land management.
The toolkit, called Forest Health: An Introductory Guide for Conservation Volunteers of Eastern Massachusetts, describes the visual cues that indicate how well a forest can sustain both itself and the wildlife that rely upon it. Although designed primarily for volunteers who care for public lands, the toolkit is appropriate for anyone who owns a wooded property. Download a copy.
Forest Health Walk: Reading a Forest
To help area residents learn how to read a forest, SVT and the Ashland Town Forest Committee installed a self-guided Forest Health Walk at our adjoining Cowassock Woods and the Ashland Town Forest properties.
The Forest Health Walk consists of 14 stops along a trail that wends through woods, over streams, and alongside rock formations. At each stop, you can scan a QR code with a mobile device to listen to an audio narration or read a text description of the important forest features that surround you.
You'll gain a new appreciation for forests and how they support our native wildlife. You’ll learn about the importance of species diversity, vernal pools, and even dead wood. Plus, you'll also see signs of threats to the land's health, such as invasive plants, insect pests, and deer overbrowse.