28 Jan 2010, 4:59pm
Forestry education
by admin

Giants of Forest Research

This book review has been sitting in my to-do pile for more than two years. I apologize — other matters have captured my attention. Recent changes at the OSU College of Forestry and other forestry schools and research institutions have made its importance more immediate.

Silvicultural research and the evolution of forest practices in the Douglas-fir region by Robert O.Curtis, Dean S. DeBell, Richard E. Miller, Michael Newton, J. Bradley St. Clair, and William I. Stein. 2007. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-696, 172 pp. is a wonderful history of forest research in the Pacific Northwest.

Silvicultural Research… is now in our Library and excerpted in the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Forest and Fire Sciences [here]. The full text may be downloaded [here].

All the giants of forestry research in the PNW are mentioned, and brief biographies given. They include

* Thornton T. Munger, the first Director of the Pacific Northwest Forest Experiment Station (1924–38),

* Julius V. Hofmann, who was instrumental in establishing the Wind River Experiment Station,

* Leo A. Isaac, who did fundamental stand improvement research at Wind River and the new Pacific Northwest Experiment Station,

* Richard E. McArdle and Walter H. Meyer, who did seminal work in growth and yield,

* Stanley P. Gessel, who studied tree nutrition, soils, and nutrient processes,

* George R. Staebler, who basically founded Douglas-fir tree farming and later became Director of Forestry Research for the Weyerhauser Co.,

and many other forest science pioneers. Silvicultural Research… itself was written by some of our greatest forest scientists who “stood on the shoulders” of the founding giants.

Silvicultural Research… is much more than biographies, however. It is a history of the research, including seed and regeneration studies, reforestation, stand management, genetics and tree improvement, growth and yield, mensuration, and other aspects of silviculture. Although the emphasis is on the early work, later studies in sustained yield, multiple use, ecosystem management, sustainable forestry, carbon cycling, and riparian silviculture are also discussed.

Silvicultural Research… is a delightful and informative read for foresters, but it is also an excellent summary of the foundations of forest science in the Pacific Northwest accessible to non-foresters.

Some concluding excerpts:

Forest management practices have been and are continually evolving. Formal forestry research has been an important factor in the process, but it is only one of the factors involved. Progress in applied silviculture comes from the interaction of research results, observation and experience of managers and silviculturists, changes in harvesting and manufacturing technology, and a continually changing economic and social environment. …

It should be apparent that silviculture and silvicultural research have a much longer history than most people — both the general public and natural resource specialists in other fields — realize. There is a great amount of existing information available for those with the time, inclination, and expertise to seek it out. …

One has only to read the media coverage of various forestry issues to realize that much of the public and the media that shape public opinion have little understanding of the long history of Northwestern forestry, the nature of forests, possible management options, or the existence of a large body of research-based information. Unfortunately, much of the existing information is only available in specialized publications that are not ordinarily seen by workers in other fields, and that are often both inaccessible and unintelligible to the general public. There is a great need for synthesis of existing information and its presentation in forms understandable by nonspecialists and by people in other natural resource-related disciplines.

We hope that this publication will contribute toward that end.



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