Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, © NFA

Northern Forest Atlas Project

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Featured image credit:  Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, © NFA

We introduce The Northern Forest Atlas Project, an organization we greatly admire for their contribution to the protection of these vital forests. This profile is drawn from the NFAP website, northernforestatlas.org. Field guides, plant charts, blogs, and photos from NFAP are all state-of-the-art works of biological wonder and important tools for helping build support for protecting the Northern Forest. ~ editors

From eastern Maine and the Maritimes to the prairie’s edge in Minnesota and Manitoba, the Northern Forest in northeast North America is a standard of great forests, large, diverse, and surprisingly continuous. “In a world in which much forest has been lost or damaged, and where natural carbon storage is critical to the future of the planet, the Northern Forest is very important.” It’s continuing importance depends upon its integrity and health.

Adirondack High Peaks from air, © NFA

Adirondack High Peaks from air, © NFA

The Northern Forest Atlas Project was created to protect that integrity and health by documenting the current biology of the forests and providing tools for the next generation of naturalists and conservationists who will study and protect them. Conservation philanthropist Ed McNeil and biologist Jerry Jenkins conceived the Atlas in 2011 to: “create a library of photos and air videos showing the landscapes, plants and animals of the northern forest; to create photographic and diagrammatic atlases, both paper and digital, for plants and landscapes; and to design and produce a series of modern field guides to plants and ecology.”

Burr-oak Thickets on Sand Hills, Western Minnesota, © NFA

Burr-oak Thickets on Sand Hills, Western Minnesota, © NFA

Their beautiful summary explains the Project’s vast work, which includes approximately 5,000 photos and videos and makes available a dozen atlases and charts. The imagery currently focuses on woody plants, mosses, sedges, and landscapes. Grasses, herbs, forest ecology and mammals will follow. Their first charts and digital atlases are for mosses and landscapes. Their first book is a field guide to woody plants; and sedge and moss field guides will soon be available.

Woody Plants of the Northern Forest

Woody Plants of the Northern Forest

An index of their products, which includes Charts and Posters, Decorative Products, Digital Atlases, Field Guides, Graphics for Download, and Photographic Guides can be found here. Their website also includes a “Quick Guide to Northern Forest Landscapes” and introductions to photographic technique. This is all accomplished by exceptional board, staff, and collaborators.

AirCam at Utowana Lakes, Adirondacks, © NFA

AirCam at Utowana Lakes, Adirondacks, © NFA

Thoughts from a New Hampshire ex-pat on the Rewilding Earth editorial team: Conservation of any natural area requires deep knowledge of what is being protected and support from enough people informed of what is at stake who will rally to the cause. These are educational challenges, and the Northern Forest Atlas Project is tackling them head-on. It aims to document and present in accessible detail the beauty and biodiversity of what is left of this important biological community in the 21st century. What remains of the Northern Forest in the heavily settled northeastern North America, where I grew up, is likely to continue to shrink in the face of human population growth and development unless someone steps up to make very clear what is to be gained by conservation or lost by exploitation. The Northern Forest Atlas Project is a key part of stepping up to the challenge.

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