The exotic pest known as the hemlock woolly adelgid has moved from north to south, state to state, tree to tree, laying waste to its namesake species with startling speed. It was first documented in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2002, and currently is sucking its way through the park’s remaining old-growth Eastern hemlock groves.
This week’s issue of The New Yorker magazine features an article by Richard Preston titled “A Death in the Forest,” about the adelgid’s spread through the Southern mountains and its implication for the forest ecosystem. Preston is the author of the bestseller The Hot Zone and more recently wrote a piece for The New Yorker about climbing California’s biggest redwoods.
Among Preston’s informants was local arborist Will Blozan, who has made a practice of studying the region’s largest hemlocks, documenting their size and role in the forest community. The article includes a mention of one of the many hemlock climbs Blozan and study partner Jess Riddle have made in the Smokies as part of the Eastern Native Tree Society‘s Tsuga Search Project.
A longer version of Preston’s article is expected to appear as a chapter his new book, due out next June.
— Kent Priestley, staff writer