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Author Topic: What is a truly "healthy" forest?  (Read 18085 times)

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Offline BrandonTN

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What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« on: August 15, 2007, 04:03:08 PM »
I have a friend who is a consulting Restoration Ecologist; he restores native plants, and weeds out the exotic, in Tennessee.  I visited his farm yesterday, and he asked where I wanted to go in my forestry career.  I told him that I'm interested in Silviculture and would like to be involved with timber harvesting.  He brought up the point that healthy forest to a timber-harvesting forester, may be slightly different from a healthy forest to a wildlife conservationist.

My question:  After thinnings and applying silvaculture principles, when a forester says: "Ok, now this is a healthy forest."  Does he mean that strictly upon the basis of it being healthy for timber production only?  Can a mixed species forest that is producing maximum, or near maximum, timber be ecologically healthy?  Can wildlife live in a forest that is prime logging material?

 
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Offline crtreedude

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2007, 04:44:36 PM »
Hi Brandon - look up the terms Dauerwald and Continuous Coverage Forestry.  The problem with mono culture is that it is more at risk to become unhealthy.

But, that doesn't mean a mono culture is necessarily bad - for example, what if a mono culture is making it possible to leave other forest intact and virgin?

So, how did I end up here anyway?

Offline Texas Ranger

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2007, 06:10:39 PM »
My question:  After thinnings and applying silvaculture principles, when a forester says: "Ok, now this is a healthy forest."  Does he mean that strictly upon the basis of it being healthy for timber production only?  Can a mixed species forest that is producing maximum, or near maximum, timber be ecologically healthy?  Can wildlife live in a forest that is prime logging material?

In the order you asked.
Maybe, depends on the forester and landowner.  Same answer.  Yes.  Yes.

A plantation is a healthy plantation, an old growth southern yellow pine forest is an adult plantation, mostly SYP, and a few other species, clean under story, and a biological desert (the sand kind) for most wildlife. 

You need to think more in terms of even aged, and uneven aged management.  Plantation or natural.   I have stands that I have managed for 40 years, cutting every 12 or 15 years.  Wildlife abounds, healthy forest, hardwood pine mix,  and a pleasure to walk in.  The problem is in the merchandising, robber barons tern it into a war zone, a good forester maintains the land and forest for the future generations.

Every condition that existed pre-white still exist, to a certain extent.  If you leave a stand alone, over the next couple of hundred years, it will revert to the pre-white type. 

It is or can be ecologically healthy if the land owner wants it to be, and if he picks the right forester.  Here in lies another flaw, original landowner dies, his heirs strip the land for the fast buck.  See a lot of that.

Fred mentioned mono-culture, which in today's terms is a plantation.  But, in the pre-white days the southern yellow pine that stretched across American could also be called a mono-culture, as well as some of the western species, Alder and Aspen come to mind.

There is no one answer, it is the land owner, and the forester, and the future.
The Ranger, home of Texas Forestry

Offline Ianab

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2007, 07:31:16 PM »
A forest can be 'healthy', but modified. They can also be modified by natural effects, fires, drought, hurricanes etc.
The actions of man will alter the types and age of the trees, that affects the wildlife and the whole system. It changes the makeup of the forest and what life it supports. Wether thats good or bad depends on your point of view.

In terms of wildlife - a partially logged forest may actually be a more inviting habitat for many animals. There is more undergrowth and young regenerating seedlings, a mix of open ground and trees is a more inviting habitat for most larger wildlife. Like the others have said a mature 'oldgrowth' forest can be a pretty bare place under the canopy. A regenerating forest has young vigorus trees.

So the definition of 'healthy' will depend on if you ask a conservationist, a hunter or a logger. The ideal is some mix I guess.

Cheers

Ian
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Offline Ron Scott

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2007, 09:10:55 PM »
From the Dictionary of Forestry:

Forest Health, the perceived condition of a forest derived from concerns about such factors as its age, structure, composition, function, vigor, presence of unusual levels of insects, or disease, and resilience to disturbance.

Perception and interpretation of forest health are influenced by individual and cultural viewponts, land management objectives, spatial and temporal scales, the relative health of the stands that comprise the forest, and appearance of the forest at a point in time.
~Ron

Offline tonich

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2007, 05:29:39 AM »
The ideal is some mix I guess.

This sums it up!
 
I never deal with ecologists. They have always been weird to me. At least, those who I know.  ;D
Nevertheless, your question can rise an interesting and useful discussion.

Offline WDH

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2007, 07:43:44 AM »
I don't think there is such a thing as a "healthy" forest in nature.  Nature just is, and things are just are....Remember the Lion King?  It is just a big circle. 

Healthy is a human contrived term.  A volcano could blow and wipe out an area.  Plants, animals, and bugs soon re-colonize.  Is that healthy?  To who, the bugs?

My issue with the concept of "healthy" is that is solely a function of your personal prejudice and personal bias.  I know what I think is healthy because of how I have been educated, both in school and in life.  It is probably different than yours.  In many places in the west and the northwest on National Forest land, commercial timber management has been halted.  While we were logging, we were affecting the natural cycle.  If nature does it on her own without our help, the timber grows old, senesces, fuel loads build up, the fire wipes it all out.  It all starts over again with a new mix of species.  After eons, the same old big trees are there again.  Then, the cycle repeats itself.  Is that a healthy forest? 

Man only gets in the middle and interupts the cycle for a while for his own personal benefit.  If man like cow meat, he selects for cows.  If man is scared of bears, he selects against them and pushes them out (for cows which he likes). 

In the end, we are just part of the Big Circle :-\.
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Offline crtreedude

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2007, 03:52:05 PM »
Another thought and then I am over my limit for one day. Lets say you have a town with only Southerners in it who shall we say aren't too dark of skin.  ::) Everyone one them just might be very healthy - unless of course they are eating Grits and then we wonder... Don't mistake diversity and healthy.

For a forest to be healthy does not mean diverse. That would be a ecosystem. It is nearly impossible NOT to have animals if you have a forest - diversity of animals probably requires a diversity of trees.

Also remember that most pioneer species of trees tend to group together - cottonwoods, pines, etc into relatively pure stands - and tropical one that does the same is teak. (and yes it is a pioneer species and can't stand competition), but the trees of a mature forest tend to be more diverse here - like up to 200 or more types in a single forest. Not sure about northern forest.

So, how did I end up here anyway?

Offline straightree

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2007, 05:37:48 PM »
It can be difficult to judge if a forest is truly healthy, but it is quite easy to compare two different forests, and conclude than one is healthier than the other. A mixed forest, for instance is healthier than a single specie one, because this one may be destroyed by a pest. I have a forest that was mainly chestnut, but fortunately there were also other species. Chestnuts are perishing because of blight, but the other species are replacing them.

Offline WDH

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2007, 10:37:50 PM »
A mixed forest, for instance is healthier than a single specie one, because this one may be destroyed by a pest.

Excellent point.
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Offline Greg

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2007, 11:21:27 AM »
My question:  After thinnings and applying silvaculture principles, when a forester says: "Ok, now this is a healthy forest."  Does he mean that strictly upon the basis of it being healthy for timber production only?  Can a mixed species forest that is producing maximum, or near maximum, timber be ecologically healthy?  Can wildlife live in a forest that is prime logging material?

In the order you asked.
Maybe, depends on the forester and landowner.  Same answer.  Yes.  Yes.

A plantation is a healthy plantation, an old growth southern yellow pine forest is an adult plantation, mostly SYP, and a few other species, clean under story, and a biological desert (the sand kind) for most wildlife. 

You need to think more in terms of even aged, and uneven aged management.  Plantation or natural.   I have stands that I have managed for 40 years, cutting every 12 or 15 years.  Wildlife abounds, healthy forest, hardwood pine mix,  and a pleasure to walk in.  The problem is in the merchandising, robber barons tern it into a war zone, a good forester maintains the land and forest for the future generations.

Every condition that existed pre-white still exist, to a certain extent.  If you leave a stand alone, over the next couple of hundred years, it will revert to the pre-white type. 


I have a problem with this statement. Pre european settlement, there were not HUGE pressures due to non native diseases and invasives.

Here in SW Ohio, some of our parkland and other forested areas is dominated in mature Ash, with honeysuckle everywhere on the ground and in the understory. When EAB kills all the Ash, all honeysuckle is going to go ape sh*t, and create dense thickets where natives will a real hard time re-establishing. (Not even getting into the garlic mustard and ailanthus issues.)

This is current a hot button issues for me, as I've been involved with a local township greenspace program. The general concensus I hear from alot of folks is that buying up land or locking it away with a conservation easement and applying "benign neglect" will lead to permanent, healthy greenspace and/or forests.

I am not so sure. I think it takes more than that, and am trying to get people to think about more active management/aggressively dealing with invasives, along the lines of Dauerwald and similar approaches.

Cheers,
Greg

Offline straightree

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2007, 07:01:48 AM »
Greg, I think that bening neglect, or no action, is an extreme, as it is an extreme a monospecies plantation for timber production, usually of rapid growth types. I am for a midle way. Actions depend a lot of actual stand condition, but it should be possible to stablish management practices with the objective of improving all aspects of forest: timber, wild life, biodeversity, aesthetics, recreation. I think a good objective is to favor mixed species forests, of uneven age, consisting mainly of local species, but considering also some non-native ones.

Offline crtreedude

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2007, 10:33:10 AM »
I would define healthy as a sustainable forest - one that serves the needs of all neighbors, whether human or not. Just like a healthy diet isn't just what I want to eat.  ::)
So, how did I end up here anyway?

Offline mdvaden

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2007, 02:50:44 AM »
I have a friend who is a consulting Restoration Ecologist; he restores native plants, and weeds out the exotic, in Tennessee.  I visited his farm yesterday, and he asked where I wanted to go in my forestry career.  I told him that I'm interested in Silviculture and would like to be involved with timber harvesting.  He brought up the point that healthy forest to a timber-harvesting forester, may be slightly different from a healthy forest to a wildlife conservationist.

My question:  After thinnings and applying silvaculture principles, when a forester says: "Ok, now this is a healthy forest."  Does he mean that strictly upon the basis of it being healthy for timber production only?  Can a mixed species forest that is producing maximum, or near maximum, timber be ecologically healthy?  Can wildlife live in a forest that is prime logging material?

 

Ha...ha...ha... :D :D :D

On a small town forum, I just replied about a similar forest related discussion, stating that I feel there's a big gap between a healthy forest and  "healthy forest" management logging.

That's because a healthy forest is not about healthy trees. Its bout healthy forests, which means healthy flourishing soils.

But I also keep in mind, that one forest can't be managed just like another forest.

The day that soil and micro-organisms are the first thing that comes to most silviculturists minds when "healthy forests" are mentioned, will probably be the day when we are on the right track to healthy forests. But not so much when trees are the first thing that comes to mind.

In western Oregon anyway.

Offline Brian Beauchamp

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2007, 11:04:21 AM »
The ideal is some mix I guess.

I never deal with ecologists. They have always been weird to me. At least, those who I know.  ;D


Are you including yourself in that statement?  ;D ...because as a forester, you are an ecologist!  ;) :)

Offline tonich

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2007, 01:24:09 PM »
I never deal with ecologists. They have always been weird to me. At least, those who I know.  ;D


Are you including yourself in that statement?  ;D ...because as a forester, you are an ecologist! ;) :)

Of course!
But believe me, there are some, who are even more weird than I am.

Some of them believe cutting trees is not good ( :o)… which statement I couldn’t find in any silviculture textbook, nor proven by my overall practice so far. ;) ;D

Offline Rocky_Ranger

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2007, 08:19:28 PM »
I gotta get in on this fray, seems healthy forest is getting taken into a discussion (since an ecologist was mentioned) as climax forest.  A healthy forest can exist in anything from a pioneer species monoculture forest to a climax forest.  Just because its a climax doesnt mean its healthy or not, just depends on whats the particular forest is being subjected to.  Pioneer plantations of loblolly or shortleaf pine are extremely healthy, as long as a pine beetle or pathogen doesnt come to town.  In silviculture we generally try to step back one successional step to not subject the biome to pressures of a monoculture, while also capturing growth not found in a climax system.  Of course Im talking production forestry here, not intrinsic values. 

I think a healthy forest is like a good cup of coffee (or whiskey), you really cant explain what it is but know it exactly when you experience it..

 8)
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Offline tonich

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #17 on: October 22, 2007, 08:01:15 AM »
Good point, RR!

It appears that almost all the successions are undesired – still they lead to loosing the pioneer species. I always use to take one step back or even more, when dealing with regeneration of pioneer species. Sometimes, my decisions are not popular, but I try to convince the owners and organizations concerned.
A very good tool for keeping and ruling the desired forest structure (incl. climax) is Selected Wood. Its main merit is sustainability (as already mentioned above).

Offline BrandonTN

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #18 on: October 22, 2007, 09:32:09 AM »
Quote
The day that soil and micro-organisms are the first thing that comes to most silviculturists minds when "healthy forests" are mentioned, will probably be the day when we are on the right track to healthy forests. But not so much when trees are the first thing that comes to mind.

That agrees with me.

I think what I was meaning to ask at the beginning of this thread is: Can there be such thing as biodiversity ("healthy" is the term I used) on a land used for timber?

I also liked how WDH objectified the whole approach to nature.  A nice existential dose for the day.  ;D  It's always good to keep the idea of different viewpoint...keeping an open-mind is essential. 
At the same time, the nature of my humanity is to be part-time sentimental, and it has stubborn requirements of biology:  It requires my environment to be arranged in a certain way, thus I strive to keep them that way. ;)

I liked to see more "sustainable forestry", ecologically speaking.  And a mass change of lifestyle for Americans; to adopt values not as materialistic, but more utililty-minded.  Like: value a car for it's use, not only its "style" or huge $$ value.  To consume less plastic, to use more recycled goods.  To generally lower wants.
If that could happen, atleast a little accross the table, in the home of common Americans, would that not be signifcant enough to change our situation to a more land-respecting one?
Forester, Nantahala National Forest

Offline Geoff Kegerreis

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Re: What is a truly "healthy" forest?
« Reply #19 on: November 01, 2007, 09:53:10 AM »
I have a friend who is a consulting Restoration Ecologist; he restores native plants, and weeds out the exotic, in Tennessee.  I visited his farm yesterday, and he asked where I wanted to go in my forestry career.  I told him that I'm interested in Silviculture and would like to be involved with timber harvesting.  He brought up the point that healthy forest to a timber-harvesting forester, may be slightly different from a healthy forest to a wildlife conservationist.

I would agree with him on a general basis, as long as he is aware that there are foresters out there who participate in timber harvesting yet also work in other areas as well.


Quote
My question:  After thinnings and applying silvaculture principles, when a forester says: "Ok, now this is a healthy forest."  Does he mean that strictly upon the basis of it being healthy for timber production only?

It depends on the forester.  "Ok, now this is a healthy forest." is a subjective statement, or rather more appropriately it is an opinion.  Next time you hear some "forester" say those words, ask him if he has sampled the nematode populations and whether he has determined that they are at adequate levels or not.  My point is, terms "healthy" and "ecosystem management" (the latter being a truly ridiculous idea) are subjective, lack information and generally are false statements.  Just because the trees are well stocked, healthy and the woods looks great doesn't mean it's "healthy".  The forest is a huge array of organisms having both independent and dependent roles.  It would take an enormous amount of resources to assure every aspect of the forest is healthy.  There are reasonable levels to take management based on it's focus.  My opinion is if the primary focus is commercial timber production, the forest is going to be lacking in ecological roles - simply because the manager has traded those roles to improve timber production.  Still - a forest in that condition (optimized for timber production) is WAY better off than having been mismanaged via a "high grade" or other exploitive logging process.

 
Quote
Can a mixed species forest that is producing maximum, or near maximum, timber be ecologically healthy?

It will be lacking components to produce and sustain some ecological processes.

 
Quote
Can wildlife live in a forest that is prime logging material?

Spotted owls live in "prime logging material".  If you clear cut it, it will move on to another stand that suits it's habitat preferences.
On the flip side of the coin, White tailed deer may move into a stand of deciduous timber that they've never been in if it's clear cut.

Wildlife habitats are very diverse.  What lives in a forest is dependent on lots of different criteria - not just the way it's managed.

So the answer is a "yes" in regard to some species that prefer that environment and "no" for those that do not.
[/quote]

I have an active lifestyle that keeps me away from internet forums these days - If I don't reply, it's not personal - feel free to shoot me an e-mail via my website (on profile) if there is something I can help you with!  :-)


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