Every year around Christmas time millions of families huddle up in their minivans and hit the road looking for parking lots, home improvement stores, nurseries, and schools all with one thing on their minds – fir or spruce? Picking out and decorating evergreens has been a winter tradition for centuries. But, have you ever wondered what happens to trees once the season is done?
Nowadays, there are a lot more uses for cut trees than just firewood. In fact, fallen trees play an integral role in the ecosystem, providing shelter and protection for fish, birds, mammals and insects.
In Chesapeake Bay, old Christmas trees help bring Poplar island new life by providing shelter and nesting for local sea fowls. This is just one part of a larger effort by The Poplar Island Restoration Project to rebuild the once 2,000 acre island into a thriving wildlife habitat.
In just over 10 years the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has restored the beach from a meager 10 acres to over 1,140. However, because the land is so new, the marshes will need more time before shrubs and trees reach maturity and can support bird species on their own.
Christmas trees have proven to be a viable answer to this temporary problem. According to FWS biologist Peter McGowan, since biologists have been on the scene documented bird species have increased from ten to over 170, with over 26 nesting species. Since 2005, unsuspecting families’ trees have become new homes for black ducks,
diamondback terrapins, snowy egrets, and red-winged blackbirds.
The project is set to be completed in 2027 and will max out around 1700 acres, containing uplands, wetlands, and several acres of open water habitat.