15 Apr 2009, 1:55pm
Forestry education Saving Forests
by admin

Old-Growth Is an Aberration of Nature

Allow me to reiterate the key point in the previous post.

Old-growth is an aberration. Conifers produce viable seed beginning at age 20 (most species, at the latest). By age 50 many seed crops have been produced in all but the harshest environments. There is no biological (evolutionary) necessity for a conifer to grow to 600 years old. There may be some biological advantage to long-term occupancy of the site, but old trees (>50) are not required for that or for perpetuation of the species.

Nature abhors (does not favor) old trees. The older a tree gets, the more storms, fires, pests, rots, and competition it must surmount. Populations adapt to changing conditions via reproduction and the crossing of genetic lines. Long periods between generations are mal-adaptive, in the evolutionary sense.

Conifers don’t need to grow to old ages. They do so only under special conditions. Throughout much of the pre-1800 Western U.S., the special conditions were frequent, seasonal, anthropogenic fire.

People established the conditions which gave rise to old-growth. Without the influence of people, there would be far fewer old-growth trees today.

If old-growth is worth saving and/or the desired future condition (those are widely held opinions), then stewardship by people is required to achieve that “aberrant” forest structure.

Without stewardship, specifically restoration forestry, old-growth cannot be protected or re-grown.



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