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Weatherwatch: September/October 2012

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Weather Front

When a Tree Falls in the Forest

Let it lie. That's the new wisdom out of Harvard University, where studies have shown that forests damaged by storms recover more quickly and return more readily to their original condition when left alone.

After a severe storm in wooded areas, a range of economic, public safety, and aesthetic reasons seem to compel landowners to clear the “rubble” and salvage storm-damaged trees. Acres of downed, leaning, and broken trees are frequently cut and hauled away. But the recovery of the forest is hindered by this common practice, according to the results of a 20-year study at The National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research site in Massachusetts.

KIMBRA CUTLIP is a freelance writer and former assistant editor for Weatherwise.

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