Old trees on the brink

FRANK KUMMER / PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER – Dark water formed an eddy around Steve Eisenhauer’s boots as they sank into the muck at the base of a 90-foot black gum tree so old, its roots were deep in this ground when the Pilgrims landed.

Scientists estimate the age of black gums in an old-growth forest surrounded by Bear Swamp in Cumberland County ranges from 400 to 500 years, making it among the most ancient of trees in the most ancient forest of its kind surviving in the Northeast U.S.

But sea-level rise fueled by warmer oceans and sinking land is pushing saltwater ever closer to the trees, with the potential to kill them in the not-so-distant future …

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