Ghost Forest: A New Jersey man is on a mission to bring back Atlantic White Cedar trees

Those who have traveled through the Pinelands or other parts of southern New Jersey have likely seen so-called “ghost forests” – stretches of trees, mostly cedar, that have been killed by rising sea levels.

News 12 Staff

May 20, 2021, 12:00 AM

Updated 1,103 days ago

Share:

Those who have traveled through the Pinelands or other parts of southern New Jersey have likely seen so-called “ghost forests” – stretches of trees, mostly cedar, that have been killed by rising sea levels.
Some of those trees are now a part of an art exhibit in Manhattan’s Madison Square Pak. Forty-nine dead Atlantic white cedar trees stand in the park - a new exhibit by artist and architect Maya Lin. It illustrates how rising sea levels are decimating forests around the world.
Many of the ghost trees in southern New Jersey were killed by saltwater infiltration caused by flooding from Superstorm Sandy.
“Just look in front of us here, there’s thousands of acres of dead cedar forest,” says Bob Williams with Pine Creek Forestry.
Williams is the forester who cut Lin’s trees down for the Manhattan exhibit. He is on a mission to help restore the white cedar trees in New Jersey. It is a tree that once fueled New Jersey’s economy and provides crucial habitat and water filtration. Its population is down 90% from Colonial times and has been increasingly threatened.
Williams says sea-level rise and resulting saltwater infiltration is one factor. But there are new baby cedars in the undergrowth - a sign there's a chance at least some of the forest could come back.
“And we have an entire ecosystem that I’m not aware of much going on to save it,” Williams says.
A patchwork of efforts to restore cedar forests is underway. In 2018, the state set aside $19 million to restore Atlantic white cedars.
Williams says he hasn’t seen much action. He says that they need some measures like controlling deer that eat the young trees, and cutting other trees and invasive species and even older or dead cedars to let the forest regenerate.
“There’s thought that goes into this. We’re not just – we’re going to get the cedars back,” Williams says.
Williams planted a stand of young Atlantic white cedars back in 1995 after clearing out an older stand of trees.
“And it’s just spectacular. We could be getting thousands of acres of this back,” he


More from News 12