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Hemlock Ecology

Hemlocks are well-known and loved for the beauty they bring to hiking trails, campsites, and residential landscapes along the eastern United States. Twenty-one percent of United States’ national parks contain hemlock, including the Appalachian National Scenic Trail which passes near the University of North Georgia.

Eastern hemlocks are an evergreen tree, found primarily in riparian zones, which can live up to 800+ years. They are very shade tolerant and provide a dense canopy that helps maintain moisture and moderate forest floor and streams temperatures.

Cool mountain streams are needed for trout and other native fish, along with aquatic insects, salamanders, and crawfish. Moderate forest floor temperatures and thick boughs provide shelter during the winter for many birds and mammals, some that nest solely in hemlock trees.

When these trees are removed from the ecosystem effects include increased water temperature and increased algal growth. This causes negative consequences on the biodiversity and health of watersheds, fisheries, and terrestrial habitats.

The loss of hemlocks will also result in immense economic loss. Outdoor recreation areas will lose part of their aesthetic appeal and can expect lower income from visiting hikers, fishers, and outdoor enthusiast.

Hemlock loss also has the potential to significantly lower property values. Stands of dead trees create wildfire hazards and fall across trails and roads, all which have a significant cost to remedy.

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