Arlington Forest
Arlington, Virginia

Nature News

By: Cliff Fairweather
Park Naturalist
Long Branch Nature Center

Natural Disturbances: As many of our visitors and neighbors are aware, the woods around Long Branch Nature Center took a beat- ing from the derecho in June and Hurricane Sandyin October. Numerous large trees were toppled.
Storms and other forms of natural disturbance can pro-mote biodiversity and shape ecosystems. Fallen trees cre- ate light gaps that initially filled with sun-loving wildflowers and create habitat for pollinating insects. Barring further disturbance, trees eventually fill the gap, restoring a forest habitat. Over longer time scales, larger, rarer disturbances such as continental collisions or meteorite strikes can re- shuffle ecosystems on a continental or global scale.

Natural disturbances occur in a continuum from small- scale, frequent and short-term to widespread, rare and long-lasting. Humans create disturbances as well, but our disturbances don’t always follow this continuum: we tend to create disturbances that are large scale, frequent and long lasting. Urban development is one example of this pattern of human disturbance and climate change could prove to be another.

We hope to have our trails cleared by the time you read this. Managing other effects of the downed trees, howev- er, will be a longer term challenge. Keeping invasive exotic plants from taking over the disturbed areas is particularly difficult and will require the help of volunteers. If you’re interested in helping us meet this challenge, please come out to a Remove Invasive Plant (R.I.P.) event – the next one at Long Branch is on January 20 from 2-5 p.m. Call 703- 288-6535 for more information.

Winter at LBNC: Don’t let the cold keep you from discovering nature this winter! There’s plenty to do and learn in local winter woods, meadows and streams. Find out how you can identify leafless winter trees using bark, twigs, seeds and other clues. Discover birds that spend their winters in Arlington and head north in the spring. And you just might be surprised how many insects are around in winter, if you know where to look.

LBNC has a great line-up of programs to help you dis- cover nature in winter. From flying squirrels to winter in- sects, we’ve got winter nature programs for tots to adults. So pull on your boots, button up your coat, and delve into nature with us this winter! You can find these programs at – enter "The Snag" in the search window.