Scientists To Study Old Wood To Better Understand Forestry Today

Bernie Tafoya
February 05, 2019 - 1:50 pm

courtesy: Morton Arboretum


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Wood from an old barn in Naperville may tell a story to scientists that gives them clues on how to better nurture the forests of today.

A team of scientists led by forest ecologist, Dr. Christy Rollinson PhD., visited the Greene Farm Barn in the Greene Valley Forest Preserve in Naperville on Monday and took more than a dozen core samples of timber from the barn.

Dr. Rollinson said the oak timbers date back from before the 1850's. She said scientists think the rings in some of those wood beams may hold clues about how the trees they came from weathered changes in climate and stressful events like fires. 

"What we’re able to see is, say a fire came through, and we expect the fire to have killed some trees in the area, but not others and so how that plays out and what we’re able to see is we see the tree was growing, it was kind of stressed, but then all of a sudden it starts growing fast. And, so that means that, some of the competition, some of the other trees around it, disappeared," she said. 

courtesy: Morton Arboretum

Dr. Rollinson said the 15 to 20 samples taken are seven or eight inches in length and about a dime's size in diameter.

"What we’re hoping to do is use the annual rings from these old oaks so we can see how did oaks grow in the often did a disturbance come through and use that information to help guide our management practices today," she said.

Dr. Rollinson said the rings should be able to tell the team how frequently the trees were stressed for multiple years at a time.

Study results may be available in the next two or three weeks. 

The trees used to make the barn will be compared with oaks in the area around the barn because it's presumed those trees were grown after the initial ones were cut down to make the barn and other structures on the farm.

Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

"In general, most trees (used in the barn) came from right outside. There’s this great opportunity that we can compare, in the same location, the trees that were there before with the trees that are there now," she said.

The Greene Farm Barn is located just north of the dog park in the Greene Valley Forest Preserve.

A similar study was conducted recently in Lockport.