Easton Events, Things to Do, Area GuideEaston Guide
Easton Alive on Facebook
Charities, conservation, events, festivals, concerts, fairs, recognition
Community News
Press Releases
Our forests never sleep, even in winter!
11/18/2016

Autumn leaves are dropping; starting an inevitable timeless recycling process that enriches the soil. You might think that once the leaves have all dropped, that forests begin to wind down for a long winter snooze. 

But according to Dr. Emile DeVito, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s staff biologist, critical ecological processes and fascinating animal behaviors begin in the fall and continue right through winter. 

As Emile explains, falling leaves pile up on the forest floor. Water, molds, and other fungi combine to decompose the leaves, gaining energy from the tough lignin, which has the same chemical makeup as sugar and starch. 

On sunny warm days, invertebrates living in the rich organic layer of the soil begin shredding and chopping up the softened leaves. As pieces get smaller, even more critters attack. By early spring, many nutrients will be newly available to the root and fungal mats in the dark, rich organic humus – the soil layer beneath the leaf litter in our forests.

If you’re a hiker, you've likely encountered forest floors free of leaves and humus, but instead sprinkled with little dirt-like ball bearings. You are walking on mineral soil particles that have been scrubbed of organic material and compacted into worm poop! 

But most of the earthworms in our forests are non-native, invasive species. Unfortunately, European earthworms, and especially the recently-arrived Asian earthworms, break down leaf litter far too quickly, consume the nutrients, release carbon dioxide (CO2), and create ideal habitat for shallow-rooted invasive plants like garlic mustard and Japanese stilt grass. These plants also lower the natural acidity (raise the pH) of forest soils, encouraging more earthworms. 

Why does worm poop matter? One reason is that New Jersey’s growing season has lengthened due to global climate change. Today, on warm, sun-facing slopes, especially in forests growing on former agricultural land, there is enough time in the fall and early winter for earthworms to virtually eliminate the autumn leaf litter. Without leaf litter and with little or no snow to cover the soil, the tiny dirt balls of worm poop are exposed to powerful winter rains. Soil erosion can be extreme and result in heavy siltation in streams and waterways, even within our forests. 

Thankfully earthworms cannot get a strong foothold in the Pine Barrens. The pine and oak leaf litter decomposes very slowly due to sandy and acidic soils, and can get quite thick. 

By about Halloween, all of the rare snakes in Pine Barrens forests have made their way back to their winter dens. But these snakes do not retreat into their dens for a long winter slumber. They seek refuge well below the frost line in cold but unfrozen soil at a constant temperature of about 36 degrees. Timber rattlesnakes in the Pine Barrens hibernate in cold water near unfrozen, running forest springs.

Recent radio-tracking studies of these rare snakes reveal that they emerge to bask in the sun on warm winter days. This may help their immune responses in fighting minor bacterial and fungal infections. Sometimes they even switch winter dens, moving cross-country in the middle of winter. 

One massive adult male pine snake moved two-tenths of a mile in January. He may have followed the scent trail of a large, breeding age female that had gone that same way the previous September; this same male ended up following her very closely the next spring until breeding season arrived. 

On humid late fall and winter evenings with temperatures above freezing, watch for male “winter moths” flying in your car headlights! You won’t see females unless you hike through the forest and find them sitting on tree trunks, as they have tiny vestigial wings and cannot fly.  They simply emit their pheromones and wait for the flying males to catch their scent while on the wing.  

Late fall brings one last flowering shrub. Witch-hazel, a common forest shrub throughout north and central New Jersey, blooms in October and November. This year, mild weather may allow the delicate yellow, threadlike flower petals to still be visible on Black Friday! 

Watch for tiny flying insect pollinators that visit the witch-hazel, listen for the melancholy song of white-throated sparrows, and look for the many “winter finches” that migrate to New Jersey from the north to spend the winter here … in our forests that never sleep!

For more information about preserving New Jersey’s forests and other natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at  www.njconservation.org or contact me at  info@njconservation.org.

POSTS

Weather extremes may be New Jersey's new normal

Bald eagles and ospreys rebound in New Jersey

Pine Barrens prescribed fires: A renewal force

Take a walk on the bottom of the sea!

Energy efficiency saves money and land - and creates jobs!

The Pines of March

Trees are more social than you think!

New Jersey's geological 'layer cake'

Keeping the 'great' in Paterson's Great Falls

Some good news!

Take action to defend and protect land and water

Interested in ecology? Become a Rutgers Environmental Steward

2016 wins and losses for New Jersey's land and water

Kick off a healthy New Year with First Day hike

Energy infrastructure: the new sprawl

Two great books for connecting kids with nature

Why do some trees stay green while others lose their leaves?

Melting ice, rising seas, hotter planet

Our forests never sleep, even in winter!

Documentary brings Great Swamp battle back to life

Defending the land they loved

Four years after Sandy, rising sea levels predicted

New Jersey: Small state, big diversity

10 great natural areas for enjoying fall colors

Removing obsolete dams brings rivers back to life

Humpback whales a welcome sight off NJ coast

NJ wine industry boosts agritourism

For good health, bathe in a forest!

Let's NOT make a deal!

New Jersey's spectacular waterfalls

Urban trees boost health and land values

Blue Acres: A win-win for open space, owners of flooded homes

Get mosquitos to buzz off - naturally!

Flawed pipeline approval process needs reforms

Speak out for our Atlantic Ocean and coast!

Help Pokemon Go lead into outdoors and nature

NJ 4th in peaches; don't miss out on peach season!

Water, water everywhere - keep it safe to drink!

Growing beer in the Garden State

Celebrate NJ's Revolutionary War parks and open spaces on July 4

Override Governor's veto of open space bill

Taming the wild blueberry 100 years ago

Celebrate and take action during National Pollinator Week

Get on the Circuit for National Trails Day

New tax deduction would give boost to NJ non-profits

Best nature movies

Call on Governor Christie to sign the open space bill!

Native seed bank may provide ash trees of the future

Urban farms bring healthy local foods

National Park Service turns 100

ARCHIVE

March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011

CLICK FOR RECENT POSTS

Opened in 1974 initiated by parents in the community, LifePath, a non-profit organization, has been providing a variety of community and residential services to individuals of all ages with developmental disabilities in 7 counties in Pennsylvania. LifePath's programs and services are guided by the principal of everyday lives, an environment of respect and dignity and opportunities to make decisions and choices about one's own life. If you are ready to make a difference in the lives of individuals in your community, we have a position for you! EOE

Snipes Farm and Education Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that brings vitality and empowerment to our community through organic food and education programs. Our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program provides fresh food, grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, to over 300 families, including vegetable shares to the Bucks County Homeless Shelter. Nutrition, farming, environmental and garden education programs serve thousands of children throughout the year. Children learn, create, make friends and have outdoor adventures at our summer camp! There are many happy birthday parties in spring, summer and fall here. Bonfires, hayrides and picnics have provided fun venues for youth/school groups and congregations. Classes for adults are offered in spring and summer. We are dedicated to sustainable farming practices and are 80% solar powered. Snipes Farm and Education Center offers hope through action.

Frank Harrison Asphalt Paving is a full-service asphalt paving company that has been serving residential, commercial, and municipal customers across Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas (NJ, NY) for 60 years. If you need your driveway or parking lot needs paving, resurfacing, line striping, or asphalt sealcoating, look no further than Frank Harrison Paving. With our state of the art equipment, we deliver affordable long-lasting asphalt or tar & chip paving results that look great!  Our long list of satisfied clients is a testament to our commitment of quality results done on time and on budget. Contact us today for a free on-site estimate!

You can trust the service and quality that Colagio The Painter provides. Over the past 25 years we have served the greater Philadelphia, Bucks County, Montgomery County and South Jersey areas as a premier residential and commercial painting contractor. In addition to painting, we provide full detailed prep work, dustless sanding, trim work, drywall repair, stucco repair, and pressure washing. We have earned the highest reputation in our industry by providing top-quality craftsmanship on time and on budget.

Visualize yourself coming home to a clean house!  SIMPLIFY.  Free up your time and leave the cleaning to us.  We have been providing professional, healthy home cleaning services to your Central Bucks County friends and neighbors since 2003.  We are a local, family owned business, and multi-year Best of Bucks award winner specializing in weekly, biweekly, monthly, and priority house cleaning. Call or click on our website to set up your free in-home quote. Visualize yourself coming home to a clean house!  SIMPLIFY.  Free up your time and leave the cleaning to us.  We have been providing professional, healthy home cleaning services to your Central Bucks County friends and neighbors since 2003.  We are a local, family owned business, and multi-year Best of Bucks award winner specializing in weekly, biweekly, monthly, and priority house cleaning. Call or click on our website to set up your free in-home quote.

Kinder Works offers Infant/Toddler care, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Summer Camp. With a staff of certified teachers, Kinder Works is fully accredited by the Department of Public Welfare and the Department of Education.  We have a unique building design with specialized classrooms, open space, lots of light and natural colors. Full and Part-time schedules are available.

Mercedes-Benz of Princeton is a family owned and operated exclusive Mercedes-Benz dealership located in the Lawrenceville / Princeton NJ area serving Central New Jersey, Lehigh Valley and the Bucks County & Philadelphia region. We have been providing the community with a friendly automotive experience since 1983. We comprise the most competitive lease & purchase options and a 22 Bay Service Department with MBUSA trained technicians to help serve you & your Mercedes-Benz. We continue to provide our clients with quality customer service in sales, service, and customer relations, striving to meet every luxury car driver's unique needs in each and every department.

The Barn Nature Center offers tours, birthday parties, and events to the Bucks County Community. We offer a setting where children can learn about, pet, play with, and interact with a wide variety of animals, including reptiles, birds, amphibians, mammals, fish, and bugs! Where else can you hold a madagascar hissing cockroach, hand-feed parakeets and cockatiels, take a picture with an 11 ft snake, feed our 100 lb Sulcata Tortoise, or pet rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs, or ferrets? We offer something for everybody! We offer daily tours to the public as well as larger events, including, but not limited to: birthday parties, field trips, school trips, Scouts events, etc.  We also have a rock climbing facility on-site that can be added to party packages or booked as a stand-alone event. The rock climbing area has a number of climbs for beginners to more advanced climbs for climbing enthusiasts. With over 30 foot walls, angled and tiered walls, there is something for everyone. We also have a game room, with pool, foosball, air hockey, etc. that can be utilized before or after rock climbing.

The IMPACT Project, Inc. is a private children and youth agency established in 1991. IMPACT provides foster care services for Pennsylvania clients from birth to age 20. Foster parents receive a wide array of training & support services provided by professional staff. IMPACT has had the honor of being the only foster care agency in Pennsylvania to have won the prestigious Program of the Year award from Pennsylvania?s Juvenile Court Judges? Commission for both our foster care programming as well as our community based programs. Please join us in our pursuit to help children in need, become a foster parent today!

Strength & Grace Dance Academy is a place where each student is given strength not only to dance, but to become strong, confident individuals. We believe that each dancer can express themselves freely through the art of dance. Dancers will get the attention they deserve to let their own unique personality shine! We offer classes for dancers age 3 to adult. The classes we offer are: Baby Steps with Mommy, Freedom which is our version of creative movement, Combo classes, Ballet, Jazz, Lyrical, Pointe and Barrga! A class for adults which is a fun blend of ballet and yoga! Strength & Grace is a loving, caring environment to let everyone truly shine! We are located at Spotlight Dance Center in Huntingdon Valley.

  become a sponsor

adbnrs