More than 2,000 acres of Atlantic white cedar trees were lost in Hurricane Sandy, from both the wind and saltwater intrusion of the storm surge, Richard Stockton College professor George Zimmerman said.
It represents a one-time loss that eclipses work done to rejuvenate the species, he said. Atlantic white cedar grows in freshwater wetlands and is important for wildlife habitat and for making rot-resistant wood products such as shingles.
Zimmerman will present an update on the condition of the trees during the Pinelands Commission's March 8 Pinelands Short Course, held for the first time in many years at Stockton. Registration has been extended to Friday.
Dozens of classes are available on the flora and fauna, history and culture of the New Jersey Pinelands.
There are estimated to be 15,000 to 30,000 acres of the trees left in New Jersey, so the loss could represent well more than 10 percent of the stands left in the state, Zimmerman said. In places, the percentage lost was much higher.
"From our seedling and field studies, we know salt and flooding is a lethal combination," Zimmerman said. "We're losing more than we can restore or regenerate."
There has been some good news, he said, as deer herds are being culled by hunting, and research on chemical compounds has helped protect young cedar trees.
"Deer can extirpate it from an area, if there are enough of them," Zimmerman said. "I see little Atlantic white cedars now that a decade ago wouldn't have survived the winter browse."
The tree is still used for lumber and can be harvested carefully, he said.
"There's no reason we can't continue to harvest," Zimmerman said. "When we regenerate stands, a whole bunch of herbacious species that are rarer come in. Ultimately we would want a wide range of age classes. The money we get from wood we could pour back into restoring more."
He said the state Department of Environmental Protection needs to develop a forest management plan with details on managing and protecting all species of tree.
This year is the 25th that the commission has sponsored a day of workshops about the many aspects of Pinelands ecology and history. The course had previously been held at Burlington County College, near the commission's offices in Pemberton Township.
But the facilities at Stockton convinced the commission to move the day of classes there, a representative said.
Classes are available on butterflies and dragonflies, historic places in the pines, water quality, climate change, roadside plants and more. Cost is $40.
Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:
If you go
The New Jersey Pinelands Commission's annual Pinelands Short Course will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. March 8 at Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township. Visit: http://www.state.nj.us/pinelands/about/events/index.html, or register through Stockton's Continuing Studies office at https://pssb.stockton.edu/flexreg/index.jsp?frc=PNLD.
For information regarding registration, call 609-652-4227, and regarding course content call 609-894-7300, ext. 125.