Sword fern and Western Hemlock are dying and dead throughout Seward’s forest.
Hemlocks are subject to a few different fungal diseases, and some disease and die-off is normal. Since 2010, however, the rate of disease and death has been dramatic, and if current trends continue we can expect all the hemlocks to disappear from the forest.
Sword ferns are a different story. Informal surveys suggest extreme longevity for individual plants: “one thousand years is not out of the question”. They are robust and resilient against drought and disease. But since 2013, many sword ferns at Seward have died. Areas once covered by a sea of waist-high ferns are now barren, with only 10% survival.