You don’t need to be an ecologist or a tree doctor (aka arborist) to read the above headline and take pause. After all, trees aren’t something you tend to think of as growing in secret, especially long enough to be termed an “old growth” forest. But that’s exactly what happened outside Guelph, Canada, a college town about an hour west of Toronto. Researcher Doug Larsen was studying cedar trees on the cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment for a little over three years when he discovered that the cedars growing on the cliffs were several hundred years old.
The discovery of old growth forests has — thanks to the spread of civilization, deforestation, etc. — become increasingly rare in the scientific community, so to find one that’s grown so close to a major metropolitan center is a truly monumental discovery. Essentially, an old growth forest is a patch of land that’s been allowed to mature for several hundred years without any kind of human involvement.
They’re ecological goldmines, as old growth forests foster new species and allow for the flora and fauna therein to develop naturally for long periods of time. Unfortunately, these same forests are also worth a pretty penny (because the wood is high quality), so they’ve been under attack from the kind of people who walk through nature, look around thoughtfully, and think: This would be great as a coffee table.
Fortunately, for the forest in question, though, developers still have trouble cutting trees down off the sides of cliffs (which is where a lot of these trees are growing). That, plus the hearty nature of the cedar tree has allowed these plants to continue their quest for survival untouched by the hands of man.