Rare Forest Sighting - Great Island Trail, Wellfleet

Continuing our exploration of Cape Cod National Seashore, we stopped by Great Island Trail in Wellfleet, MA. It is one of three forest areas part of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens, making it another rare forest to visit and study.

The Atlantic coastal pine barrens only comprise forests along the coastal plain of New Jersey, southern Long Island, NY, and Cape Cod and the islands, MA. These forests are characterized by nutrient-poor, sandy soils that are prone to drought and frequent fires. 

The original forests in Cape Cod were predominantly composed of hardwoods and white pines, which were chopped down by European settlers for agriculture and fuel. This deforestation led to topsoil erosion by wind and rain. It exposed the nutrient-depleted, dry, infertile soil and sand beneath, which caused the land to become barren.

In the 1830s, pitch pines were planted to stabilize the soil. Pitch pines are uniquely suited to this type of dry, nutrient-poor environment. They also create cool and shady habitat, perfect for oaks to reestablish. Oaks eventually outgrow the pioneer species (pitch pine), and the future forest will be oak and and white pine, just as it was before colonization.

Forest blessings to all