When you think about the conservation efforts of the National Aquarium, the first thing that probably comes to mind is our work with endangered animals, particularly marine mammals and sea turtles. You may not realize that our conservation team also spends a lot of time restoring coastal habitats, and is even saving trees that are in danger of becoming endangered.
There is one particular species of tree that seems to be getting special attention these days, for good reason. The Atlantic white cedar trees are considered rare in Maryland, and conservation efforts are underway to restore this species and the valuable freshwater wetland habitat it creates.
Why are these evergreen trees rare? There are few species of trees that have been used to make everything from barrels, to water pipes, to railroad ties, and even gunpowder; historically, Atlantic white cedars were used for all this and more! Even pirates utilized Atlantic white cedar forests of New Jersey as a hiding place in the 1700s. Needless to say, a tree that produced strong, waterproof lumber was in high demand, and Atlantic white cedars were harvested heavily throughout their natural range along the East Coast, from Maine to Florida. Heavy cutting for these commercial uses has continued during this century. Our conservation team saw the opportunity to help this cause and educate students along the way by adding Atlantic white cedar plantings to the Wetland Nursery Program. In September 2009, 200 students on the Eastern Shore of Maryland prepared 350 Atlantic white cedar saplings to grow in wetland nursery ponds at Stephen Decatur Middle School and Berlin Intermediate School. Aside from a small area in Anne Arundel County, parts of the Eastern Shore are the only places in Maryland where Atlantic white cedar swamps can still be found. When the students plant their trees at Nassawango Creek Preserve in May, their seedlings will join the 1,350 planted by area students in the Wetland Nursery Program last spring. We hope they take pride in knowing that the habitat they are restoring is special to the area they call home. Our green tip of the day? Consider planting an Atlantic white cedar tree! This year we are pleased to have the opportunity to include a community volunteer event along with the student Atlantic white cedar restoration. Please join us on Saturday, May 22, as we plant an additional 1,000 trees at Nassawango Creek Preserve. Click here to learn more.