The change of seasons in the Northeastern United States is a beautiful study in contrasts, with fall being the most stunning. Autumn sees many life forms preparing for winter, and
trees are perhaps the most visibly dramatic in their preparations for the upcoming freeze. Most notable among their changes are of course leaves, which are the source of life for trees. During the warm months, plants are busy with photosynthesis, the process which converts sunlight into chemical energy.Chlorophyll is a pigment in plants that is critical to photosynthesis and also gives leaves their green color. In the fall, that process slows down, and other pigments previously covered by chlorophyll are revealed in a most spectacular way. Lauren Makeyenko is Experience Manager at Tifft Nature Preserve in Buffalo.
" When the fall comes and the chlorophyll is starting to break down, and the tree is starting to sever it's leaves, those oranges and yellows come out and another pigment is produced in fall that produces those reds and purples, so we get to see a wide array of beautiful colors."
The process is triggered by several factors, less sunlight and colder temperatures chief among them. Shedding those leaves helps the tree prepare for the frigid months ahead.Without leaves, the tree needs to use less energy to survive. Makeyenko explains." If sunlight is the process by which they get their nutrients, they need to store it in the winter months, so dormancy is the way to go for the trees so they can survive till the next year. "
Seldom is anything wasted in nature and such is true in this instance as well. Even in death, the leaves provide life to many organisms. " It just decomposes, it becomes soil, it becomes habitat," Says Makeyenko " It becomes food for decomposers, it becomes food for fungus, it becomes food for all sorts of little insects that live under logs, and things like that, milipedes, centipedes, so it's really important."
But for now, forget about why it's all happening, and just sit back and enjoy the rich palette of colors that nature has graced us with. Here in New York, we've got front row seats for one of the planet's most incredible displays. " People travel to the Southtowns or the Southern Tier to see the colors, the Adirondacks are spectacular if you go in the fall ! I think we know, but I have friends and family that have moved away, and when they don't have it around them they really realize how much they may have taken it for granted."