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.