Forest ecosystems are more than just trees. While it is true that trees are the dominant feature of a forest, their connection to and interaction with other biotic and abiotic features is what forms the forest ecosystem. Understanding what organisms live in our forests and how they interact with their environment is essential to developing different approaches in tree management and rural and urban forest protection to promote long-term forest ecosystem health.
Forests were once viewed as large expanses of an inexhaustible source of wood. Over time, as our population grew, we have come to realize the importance of forests in providing other benefits aside from the wood extracted and wildlife habitat they provide. Forest ecosystems have intrinsic value: Trees purify our air, soil, and water; provide temperature regulation in our homes from shading and wind protection; and remove excess carbon dioxide from the air and store it above and below ground. These are just some of the dynamics that we refer to as ecosystem services; i.e., the natural processes, functions, and inner workings of forests that provide us with benefits.
Many features of Vermont forest ecosystems are captured in the Natural Resources Atlas. Bear in mind that forest’s across the state may respond differently to environmental factors depending on site factors and history of land use practices. A few examples of minimally disturbed forests have been maintained in Natural Areas.