2013 Current Issue
is the Massachusetts Envirothon Current Issue?
How do Trees & Forests contribute to sustainability in Massachusetts?
In 2012-2013, Mass Envirothon teams will investigate what trees and forests can contribute to Massachusetts sustainability in the decades to come.
By a broad definition of the term, we all live in the forest, whether our homes are in urban, suburban, exurban, or rural communities. Even cities are ecological spaces, packed with trees, vegetation, and wildlife, that are connected to suburban and rural areas. In addition, we all use forest products and benefit from ecosystem services that forests provide – including clean water, clean air, wood and paper products, cooling shade, fuel, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities.
Massachusetts forests vary in species composition, age, and extent. Some are protected greenspaces in cities and towns. Others are large unbroken stretches of rural woodland. Forests’ ecological diversity is compounded by the many edges they share with paved and built areas, agricultural fields, bodies of water, and tended lawns.
The Massachusetts landscape has been dominated by forests since soon after the last ice age. Even today, land left open soon reverts to forest. While scientists recognize that there are different dominant forest communities in different regions of Massachusetts, perhaps the most important thing to recognize is that forests are in constant change. Forests change in response to human disturbance (such as clearing or selective cutting or high-impact recreation) or natural disturbances (such as hurricane or tornado winds and insect infestation), or simply to being left alone.
What does “sustainability” mean for forest ecosystems and for human communities? Because they exhibit such resilience, we can easily take the forest communities around us for granted. But as human activity strains natural resource limits, and particularly as climate change transforms our world, we need new knowledge and skills and commitment to treat this home well.
This year, Mass Envirothon teams will explore nearby woodlands large and small, consider street trees in new ways, use maps and other information sources, and talk with a variety of resource people to answer such questions as:
· What is the character and extent of forests in our urban, suburban, exurban, and rural communities?
· What makes a forest system ecologically sound? How do we measure forest health?
· How do we use forests? What ecosystem services do trees and forests provide to our particular community?
· What uses are compatible? How intensively can we use forest resources and still expect the same uses in the future?
· What changes have happened in forests in the local landscape over the past 100 years?
· How will changing climate affect Massachusetts forests and the ecosystem services they provide?
· How do we make decisions about forests and our use of them? How can we protect this green infrastructure? Who are the resource people and decision-makers?
· Going forward, how can we best manage our use of the forest in our communities? How can we be involved?
2013 Mass Envirothon Current Issue Materials
and Resources for Community Research (2013) (revised final version,
Other Useful Resources
is the Biodiversity
Initiative home page, with links to the DFW Ecological Restoration
This link describes landscape habitat goals for forest cover that will benefit wildlife
Young Forest Project: This is the collaborative of various groups
including the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI), state fish and wildlife
agencies, Ruffed Grouse Society, National Wild Turkey Federation and
other conservation groups. The effort is directed at bringing an understanding
about the need for young forest
Cover: Wildlife of Shrublands and Young Forest
Young Forest Project -- PowerPoint
Young Forest Project -- Script
Relevant Workshop Presentations from past years
Paul Barten, UMass Amherst Department
of Environmental Conservation
Want to see a team in action?
Watch a video
of the Quabbin Regional High School Team presentation
Score them yourselves using the 2012 score sheet.
Here's a link to the 2012 Current Issue Problem
For questions regarding the current issue, please