Farming during the colonial era wiped out vast tracts of forest throughout New England, dramatically altering the landscape for centuries to come. But the forests of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and other states in the Northeast are rebounding. In the mid-1800s, just 30 to 40 percent of the land remained forested after logging, farming and leveling operations. Today, 80 percent of the region is covered in forest.
Native animals that had nearly been driven out by deforestation are now back in surprisingly large numbers, including beaver, moose, bears and white-tailed deer. What makes this recovery even more remarkable is the swell in population over the past two hundred years, which has included pushing out of cities to create additional suburbs.
“It feels almost like we’re entering an age of miracles,” John Banks, director of natural resources for the Maine tribe Penobscot Nation, told The Boston Globe. “New England is undoing many excesses of the industrial age.”
According to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE, Northeast forests still consist of the same species they did when Europeans arrived centuries ago. But the differences come in the quantities of each tree species, some of which rebounded in surprising ways. Maples have increased more than 20 percent in most towns, while many other trees have declined. Pines have seen a greater shift than any other kind of tree, which numbers rising in some places and dropping in others. This is due partially to the fact that pine is valuable and popular as timber, but also grows back very quickly after cutting.