The Northern Forest Atlas - The Gift of Nature

The following is a feature from the Northern Forest Atlas. You can learn more on their website: Above is an image of their digital atlas Mosses of the Northern Forest, a collection of 1,650 high-resolution images, with descriptions, diagnostic diagrams, and ecological information for 258 species of moss

The Northern Forest Atlas

A public asset that soothes the soul and astonishes the mind, the Northern Forest Atlas provides immediate and free access to the accumulated wisdom of one of the greatest ecologists of our time. All thanks to the donors whose passion for the work has brought it this far

If you are looking for a Christmas gift for the loved-one whose heart is in the forests, mountains, and lakes, a charitable gift to the Northern Forest Atlas Foundation could help both fill the stocking and complete the Atlas. 

For five decades, Jerry Jenkins has been in the field, observing the northern forest, the Adirondacks in particular. His singular understanding is presented in the form of an unparalleled multimedia natural history that is breathtakingly beautiful, more comprehensive than any other, and easy to use. Even more exciting, there are three digital atlases (so far) that can be downloaded gratis to an iPad for use in the woods, far from an internet connection.

Jerry’s teaching method is to give us things to look at carefully. The Atlas is a resource of images and few words. We see things from the near-microscopic level all the way to landscape-scale through photography that exploits advances in technology that have radically changed what’s possible in nature photography. Jerry’s delightful illustrations demonstrate where things grow and how they fit together in a landscape.

How To Use and Enjoy the Atlas

Anyone who loves plants will enjoy the imagery, and to see thousands of details that have never been photographed clearly before. has about 5,000 photos, 36 videos filmed from a float plane, and 25 large-format charts and imagery downloads. The imagery currently includes woody plants, mosses, sedges, and landscapes. Many are available for free download and may be used for any personal, educational, or nonprofit use. Because in-person classes are at present inadvisable, Jerry has created download-able courses focussed on mosses and sedges for anyone to use. 

Three digital atlases contain some 4,000 images, each with notes on identification and ecology. The majority of the pictures can be zoomed to full screen or beyond; on a full-size monitor this gives magnifications from 3x to over 50x, and allows the atlases to function as digital microscopes, preloaded with 200 to 300 species for each category of plants.

Book-length photographic guides and folding charts for mosses, sedges, and woody plants are for sale through Cornell University Press and Amazon.  

Still to come are a photographic guide and a digital atlas of grasses, and the first ecological field guide, to woody plants, scheduled for 2022. A guide to ecological patterns and ecological field guides to mosses and sedges will follow.

Conservation Message

The Atlas is geared to provide education, awareness and tools that work, to give us the best opportunity to protect and steward this amazing place we call the Northern Forest.  

The continuing importance of the forest depends on its integrity and health. Given the threats of the coming century—population, pollution, climate disruption, resource extraction, disease—neither can be taken for granted. Its survival will depend both on its resilience and our stewardship. It has, after three hundred million years of evolution, remarkable endurance and flexibility. We have, if we choose to use them, equally remarkable abilities to observe, appreciate, and protect.

The Northern Forest

The Northern Forest of northeastern North America extends from eastern Maine and the Maritimes to the edge of prairies in Minnesota and Manitoba. It contains, besides forests, beaches, barrens, cliffs, marshes, swamps, bogs, farms, grasslands, lakes and ponds, and, on the highest eastern mountains, small amounts of krummholz and tundra. It is large, diverse, and surprisingly continuous. Within the northern forest, the Adirondacks is a keystone area for natural area protection and biodiversity. 

By any standard it is a great forest. In a world in which much forest has been lost or damaged, and where natural carbon storage is critical to the future of the planet, it is also a very important one.

The Ecologist, Photographer, Illustrator and Author

Jerry Jenkins, author of The Adirondack Atlas, Acid Rain in the Adirondacks, Protecting Biodiversity on Conservation Easements, and Climate Change in the Adirondacks. He has received, among other honors, the Harold K. Hochschild award from the Adirondack Museum and the W.S.Cooper award from the Ecological Society of America. He has shared the joys and onus of producing the Northern Forest Atlas with an intimate group of collaborators. The work is supported and overseen by the Northern Forest Atlas Foundation’s board, it is a tax-exempt corporation registered in New York State.

The Pilot and Filmmaker

Ed McNeil,  Atlas President, has served as Chair of the Adirondack chapter of The Nature Conservancy, member of The Nature Conservancy’s NY State board, and Chair of the Adirondack Land Trust. Ed flew Charlie Canham, a senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, throughout the Adirondack Park Park for a multi-year nitrogen deposition study using an airplane he built especially for the project. He built another for filming the videos presented on the Northern Forest Atlas website.

How to Give

If you would like to support our work building the Northern Forest Atlas, we would be happy to receive your gift.  A small donations button on the bottom of the page will lead you to a DONATE button. Checks may be made out to the Northern Forest Atlas Foundation and mailed to NFAF c/o Ray Curran, 416 Park Ave., Saranac Lake, NY  12983.

The Northern Forest Atlas Foundation, Inc., is a corporation exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and contributions are deductible.  Contributions exceeding $250 will be acknowledged by letter. The NFA Foundation has been funded to date by a small group of individuals and foundations. We have no fundraising staff, therefore 100% of donations will go toward Atlas work.  Most of our expenses cover gathering photographic images in the field, publishing and creating graphic images or videos to more fully illustrate the Northern Forest landscapes.

Together we have the opportunity to conserve and protect this amazing forest resource at a time of significant threats by making this website with its incredible collection of images available to many. Thank you for your help.