Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Sustainable Living and Land use › Sustainable Forestry › Ecological Integrity
- December 6, 2007 at 3:10 pm #39281
Sustainable forestry depends on the recognition that as an ecosystem our forest has a set of natural processes that make it what it is. The current emphasis in forestry is based on a management of timber growth. As many foresters are truly outdoors-people who have a great appreciation for the woods, there is the sense that they can modify the industrial approach by the judgment calls that they make. What this amounts to is an eco-filter on the modern economic/industrial lens of forest management. Economics are still the strongest driver of decisions about forest management. A good example of this is the stocking guides and growth curves used to evaluate forest production. The greatest return is derived from maximizing the growth rate of trees during the juvenile stage, this is referred to as the J-shaped curve. As soon as trees reach a mature growth rate, the cumulative growth rate is reduced and the J-shape moves toward an S-shape. This is considered marketable maturity, and management objectives are developed with this target in mind. The ecological integrity of the forest depends on a cycle of growth that goes from seed sprout through juvenility, maturity, over-maturity, mortality, and back. The importance of this is the implications to all of the other organisms that depend on and participate in the forest ecosystem. It is tree growth that defines the forest, and it is tree growth that actually develops the forest, by recycling growth. All of the components of a functioning forest ecosystem depend on this most basic function of trees. Management objectives that focus more on the processes that contribute to this cycle, rather than on economics can contribute to significantly to sustainability. This simple change in perspective is the very first step in regaining healthy forests that will sustain themselves.December 12, 2007 at 12:16 pm #44674
Because of the time involved in harvesting trees – many of the commercial models are risky. This is because the longer you have to wait for the trees to mature, the more likely one or more risks will defeat you.
More natural forest reduce this problem. Since they are not monocrop, the chances of disease for example wiping out the trees is significantly reduced. You also have diversity which helps deal with market fluctuations.
Even though it is possible that a more natural forest (i.e. mixed aged, continual coverage) may appear less profitable, in the long run, I do believe, when you count all factors, not just wishful thinking, it is more so.December 14, 2007 at 1:32 am #44677PACrofterParticipant
One way to help mitigate these risks is to use the woodlot for something else while the trees are growing to harvestable size.
I bought 50 acres earlier this year and I’m planning on thinning the trees to allow grass to grow underneath and then grazing livestock there. I figure if I manage the tree species to provide mast for pigs and manage the spacing to allow grass for cattle or sheep that I’ll be getting a two-fer or three-fer. And, if I can get maple syrup or timber at the same time, then so much the better. The thinnings should provide firewood, too.
Maybe it’s a five-fer if I can manage it properly?
MERCEDES-BENZ W164 HISTORYDecember 14, 2007 at 3:01 am #44671
Manage your use, not the forest. If your various uses are part of a normal complex of interrelationships then there will be minimal impact on the forest ecosystem. Only by allowing the forest to be what it is, or is going to be, will you be able to have a sustainable use of that forest. CarlDecember 14, 2007 at 6:04 pm #44678PACrofterParticipant
@Carl Russell 100 wrote:
Manage your use, not the forest. If your various uses are part of a normal complex of interrelationships then there will be minimal impact on the forest ecosystem. Only by allowing the forest to be what it is, or is going to be, will you be able to have a sustainable use of that forest. Carl
Huh? If your goal is ‘minimal impact’, then there is no ‘forestry’, sustainable or otherwise. How do you define ‘sustainable use’ if you’re aiming for ‘minimal impact’? The only way to reconcile those two concepts is to envision you tiptoeing through the forest picking up odd bits of dead wood and – maybe – fallen acorns. Taking down a tree for any reason is incompatible with minimal impact; even removing a tree that blew down in a hurricane is *not* minimal impact. After all, that wood would otherwise rot down into food for many animal and plant species if you left it in place.
The approach I described balances (a) allowing the forest to do what it does, with (b) ‘using’ the forest for my needs. I could, like so many others do, come in and clear cut the forest for a one-time timber harvest, and then let it sit there and regenerate over the next 80+ years, but that’s not what I described. My intention is to gradually change the balance of species and the spacing of plants to provide benefits to not just me but other species as well. The forest will become more of an edge habitat than the overgrown jungle it is now, and edge habitats have been shown to be more productive (read: home to more biological activity) than either prairies or dense forests.
Moreover, the uses to which I intend to put the little corner of forest over which I have stewardship *will* be sustainable. I will demonstrate over time that landowners have alternatives to clear-cutting when they strive to figure out how to make a living from their patch of land. This lesson will benefit not only my forest but the forests of others; how can that not be sustainable?
Ford aerostar historyDecember 15, 2007 at 7:55 am #44670Gabe AyersKeymaster
This is a very interesting and complex issue. I am a forester and horse logger also. We have developed an educational program that trains people to be Biological Woodsman.
I think a problem with higher education is that it sometimes tends to make us speak in a language not understandable by average folks that have no training in a particular field of interest or study. Landowner education needs to be more than the telephone number of a consulting forester. Although some of my income is made as a consulting forester, it is mostly about landowner education – about their forest. I don’t prepare and conduct bidded sales of timber. My goal has always been to translate what I learned in forestry school to common sense speech that is clear to the non forestry folks….because those are my clients. Non Industrial Private Forestland Owners are the largest demographic among forest landownership in the eastern U.S. This is where we work daily.
Carl gives the reverse J as a measurement of what is happening in the forest, which is an approach I don’t use. This formula doesn’t help me achieve my objectives of forest restoration. Crop Tree Management does. Worst First Single Tree Selection does.
This type of academic mensuration is the epitome of not being able to see the forest for the trees. It is what we are taught in school, along with even aged management (clear cutting) being the only acceptable silvicultural prescription for formerly high graded sites (read everywhere). Our approach is much more concerned about growing high quality lumber rather than high quantity volume. The result is that what is good for the ecology is good for the economy. This will become more clear in the future.
There is so much more to the forest than capturing the maximum growth rate of the trees through management. The other values and incomes that can be generated from active forest management are much greater than the measurement of maximum board feet produced annually, in a certain age or size class. There are more values ($) than will be able to discussed by me in this forum at this point. Maybe more later.
“When you see the forest as timber production alone, you actually reduce the timber production capacity of the forest.” W.B. Particularly when you are growing high quality hardwoods or working in a naturally diverse mixed species forested condition. Of course all these consideration run all over the spectrum and accurately reflect site specific conditions. But despite all that science and knowledge it usually comes down to the former human intervention that is the greatest influence on most forest we all have to work in.
Our approach is well explained in the writing “Forestland – A Natural Capital System” and “Nature’s Tree Marking Paint “on our web site. Please read this to understand the economic analogy of a forest and stock portfolio.
Agro-Forestry or growing grass as well as trees is an old approach. The Savannah forest presents this condition and as a natural example of how this has worked in the past for Native Americans. When you are growing high quality and high value hardwood this is not appropriate. Livestock should be kept out of a natural Appalachian mixed species forest. There is already documented damage from wildlife (deer) in our forest and keeping domesticated livestock out of your woods will help them be more healthy ecologically speaking. An example of a negative aspect of livestock presence in the forest, is urine stain in what would otherwise be veneer logs.
The edge is where invasive botanical species enter the forested ecosystem and displace natural vegetation and damage ecological integrity. These invasive botanical, insect, fungal and bacteria species already represent Bio-Terrorism to me. Wow, I wonder if some email internet scanner will pick up that buzz word and turn me/us in to homeland security? Maybe so and if they do, maybe they can put a bounty on these botanical terrorist and we can pay average everyday people to battle them. It will be a more important part of natural forest management in the future. It already is here (Appalachia). Since invasive botanical species are disturbance dependent, light disturbance methods will be a good start.
Don’t get me wrong, I support having “wilderness” or places where we do nothing. The scientific method requires that we have a control plot of doing nothing so we can see the results of any treatments we do apply. This is where we may learn from nature.
This is a very complex issue and I wish I had more time to write about it at this moment, but I don’t. I hope there will be some response to this and we can all learn more from each other. I hope folks read some of the material on our web site before responding to this post. Of course anyone is welcome to come see what I am writing about at any time. It is public information, promoted by an organization that exist for the public good.
We use horses to conduct low impact restorative forestry and are very successful at it. We are only one crew of many doing this work. I have been doing this for over thirty years and know what the impact of our work is – as I have harvested several sites, several times over those years and my children will harvest them again. We often work on land that is under conservation easement to restrict future use and in the ownership of family trust, municipalities and corporate entities. The point is that it is a long term approach that requires long term tenure of ownership.
Disturbance is a part of nature. Disturbance is part of forest dynamics and is always occurring without human intervention. We believe that “restorative forestry” is the best way for man to age the forest.
In five hundred years of being left alone the forest will take care of itself and be fine. The forest doesn’t need us, we need the forest. We need it for the products we use daily, the ecological services it provides for the human good and for all the things we still don’t understand about it.
Again, I invite anyone truly deeply interested in these issues to read the material on our website, under HHFF documents. Let me know what you think…
http://healingharvestforestfoundation.orgDecember 15, 2007 at 11:39 am #44672
Agri-forestry is agriculture. Sustainability is also a personal issue, and individual sustainability is based on personal choices. Sustainable forestry is however dependent on natural forest processes that do not include human objectives, or uses. When we think about forest uses that are intended to encourage a sustainable forest resource then we need to place at the highest priority those processes that are fundamental to the natural forest ecosystem. Recognizing that our uses will change that is the next step. It is a matter of shades of gray after that, in terms of which choices make the most sense to you personally. Great discussion. CarlDecember 15, 2007 at 6:30 pm #44675
I think one way to measure Ecological Integrity is to first determine what are you going to measure.
For me, I measure the following:
3. Purity (i.e. of streams and rivers)
Age is interesting. I view it very similar to age of a population. There should be young and old. In truth in the tropics, fallen trees are only around for about one year (except wood that is so hard that nothing touches it)
Younger woods have more animals generally – older woods have more wood.
Please understand all my comments are about forest here in the tropics – your experiences will be different. For example, I have some teak trees 4 1/2 years old 50 feet tall and 9 inches in diameter DBH. Don’t try that with oak up there. 😉
Regeneration of rainforest is from a large tree falling and taking down a large amount of trees – all of these can be harvested.December 23, 2007 at 2:36 pm #44673
The most common modern approach to resource management is defined by the product. In other words forest resources are defined in terms of timber, wood, or other assets that are harvested from the forest. Management objectives are chosen based on the most effective way to develop these products to their marketable premium. The point that escapes most of us today is that the forest is actually the resource. By this I mean the forest ecosystem, the bundle of complex interrelationships, is the foundation for the growth of the products we desire.
One of the factors that distracts us is that we don’t have an understanding of a true forest, because we have been playing with the landscape intensively for hundreds of years. As we witnessed right here in this thread, the assumed alternative seems to be non-entry wilderness. There are a lot of arguments about the value of wilderness, many of which are emotional/aesthetic/spiritual, or sometimes allowed for as an opportunity for understanding forest processes. I enjoy the wilderness experience well as anyone, but I contend that we do not need wilderness to have ecological integrity.
As I pointed out in my first post that the J-shaped curve of growth captures the focus of most of the conventional forest managers. The way that the juvenile growth rate is optimized is through reduced stocking. There is little doubt that reducing competition will increase individual tree growth, which can deliver the greatest economic return. What escapes most people is that the reason stocking has to be reduced is that the forest as an ecological community strives for the overstocked condition.
Overstocking causes increased mortality, reduced vigor, shallow rooting, and preconditions forest stands to disease complexes, wind-throw, and other potential impacts that may negatively affect yield. Now if economics is the primary motivator, then these factors are considered non-productive. But in reality these are the factors that improve the long term health of the ecosystem, and eventually have positive impact on individual tree growth by providing environmental pressures that encourage fitness. These factors also encourage the many other unseen components of the forest ecosystem.
By maintaining high stocking, using single tree selection and crop tree release, and by using small scale harvesting systems like draft animals, with regular low-volume entries the forest can be allowed to have a more natural progress. When I say manage your use not the forest, this is what I mean. By letting the forest do what it does, and adjusting the way we use it to allow for as much natural succession as possible, we can approach ecological integrity.
Because trees are the primary defining feature of the forest, it is easy fro us to focus on them, and define the forest in terms of trees. Trees not only define the forest, they provide it. In other words, obviously, there would not be forest without trees. Pretty simple. But the complexity is that the forest is about a host of other organisms and complexes that inhabit the environment created by the trees. This process is also beneficial to tree growth. Trees create the environment, attract associates and contributors, and then take advantage of their contribution to ensure future success. If we continue to ignore this, and continue to interrupt the process because of our need for product, then we will be continually faced with forest ecosystems that can’t support tree growth adequate to provide that need. CarlDecember 23, 2007 at 6:36 pm #44679RoyParticipant
You bring up a good point Carl. The forest is much more than the value of standing timber. I think that it is important not to forget about the importance of the entire ecosystem, not just from the view of preservation, but the economic advantage as well. A balanced aproach to forest managment can support selective timber harvesting, wildlife, and recreation without one negetively effecting the other. It all depends on balance. In 1841 my great grandfather x3, homesteaded what would become our familys farm. For the next 60 years the land was exstensivly logged, and farmed. The logging stopped around 1900, the tillable ground continued in crop production or grazing while the land that was too rocky or steep slowly returned to forest. After 100 years we now have a farm that is much more in balance. We selectivly harvest our timber with our oxen and custom saw the logs here on our own mill. By working this way we can also see an economic return from the wildlife and recreational tourism. Our cattle production is much smaller than it once was, but the beef is being marketed direct sale and not going through the sale barn. All of this combined has not only given us a much more diverse, and beautiful farm, but has actually put our farm back into the black without any of us having to work an off farm job. The key has been to not go so far in one direction that you adversly effect the other.December 24, 2007 at 10:55 am #44676
One key component in your success – you cut out the middleman. One huge advantage now is communication (I am typing this from Costa Rica for example). You can find clients via the Internet and you don’t have to have that many.
We have a fully operational woodshop – we make doors, beds, flooring, molding, cabinets, etc from our own wood. Lots of middlemen have been cutout. Easier on the land too when you cut in place and only haul off the usuable component.December 24, 2007 at 5:49 pm #44680RoyParticipant
We also have a small wood shop that a friend operates. He helps at the mill as off bearer, I pay him with lumber, then I receive a percentage of his retail sales. The tops we cut into fire wood and sell in our campground.
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