Vines & Climate Change
The forest was littered with vines, growing up, through and around everything. It took a year and a half to sort out the vines finding that only one provided nectar for Hummingbirds which could be easily mitigated by planting other native vegetation.
At the same time I came across an article published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. It was the study results of Ecologist Stefan Schnitzer on the effects vines had on a tree's ability to absorb carbon.
The results of his study showed that a forest cleared of vines would grow more vigorously and therefore absorb more carbon into their trunks. He cleared an 8-acre section of forest and after three years it was found “forests cleared of vines had absorbed 75 percent more carbon than control areas where vines were allowed to grow freely”.
Those findings were enough for me given the effects of climate change, so we began removing vines and other nonessential vegetation from 50% of our property.
The changes in the trees happened far more rapidly than expected. The canopy grew more lush in the matter of months and trees that had not bloomed in over two years were covered with flowers bringing in a multitude of pollinators.
Image of tree after vine removal
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Same tree six months later.
One area that we left the vines in place was on the ground where we were not planting any agricultural products. Our research showed that in times of heavy rainfall the vines are highly effective in holding the rocks and dirt in place as the waters flowed down the hillside, eliminating washouts and top soil erosion.
Catastrophic Event Effects
In the aftermath of Cat5 Hurricanes Irma and Maria we found that we had lost only three trees in the vine free section, whereas the unmanaged section was a near total loss with vine laden trees littering the ground.
Within a few months the trees in the vine free section had regrown their leaves and were beginning to flower providing food for the pollinators which are vital to reestablishing agricultural efforts and providing food for the local wildlife. But the trees in the unmanaged side were busy trying to push new limbs up from what trunks they had left with virtually no flowering taking place.