Breathing forest
Photo by Vadim Petrov

Video shows mysterious “breathing forest” in Nova Scotia

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As cottagers, we like to think of the earth as a living, breathing thing. But one resident of Apple River, Nova Scotia, recently captured a video that brings that metaphor to life.

On Oct. 30, during the final dregs of Hurricane Patricia, Brian Nuttall was walking through the woods of Cumberland County when he noticed the ground doing something peculiar. All around him, the forest floor began rising and falling as though the earth beneath him were breathing. And as his smartphone video shows, the ground’s movement was far from subtle.

Theories about the eerie movements abound, and Brian took to Facebook to dispel the notion that the movement might stem from an underground river. “The ground is dry on the side hill, all gravel with shallow top soil for roots, not wet, no underground rivers,” he wrote.

He then offered his own theory:

“I feel the trees didn’t grow deep strong roots as they wouldn’t be needed when surrounded by a forest, sheltered with strength in numbers unlike a tree found alone in a pasture. The punishing prevailing winds have taken their toll on the side hill, the roots have loosened and the mossy ground from the once shaded forest floor are giving way, soon to be toppled over.”

Anyone who’s lived in a tight-knit forest—a phenomenon that often occurs when humans plant trees too closely together—will understand what he’s suggesting. Crowded trees often rely on each other for support rather than the strength of their own root systems. And when some are lost during a storm, those that remain standing, along with everything they’re connected to, move at the wind’s mercy.