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What qualifies as an Autopoietic Forest

Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 10:26 am
by Gary Beluzo
What forests are good candidates for "The Autopoietic Forest"? To review, an Autopoietic Forest differs from a MANaged forest in the following ways:
Autopoietic versus Managed Forests
Autopoietic versus Managed Forests
A key question is whether or not a forest that has been MANaged in the past can be designated an "Autopoietic Forest" if the forest is put into preservation and the INTENT is to leave it alone and allow autopoietic processes to return? Perhaps there should be at least one "Autopoietic Forest" in every city/town... What think you, ents?

Gary

Re: What qualifies as an Autopoietic Forest

Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 10:47 am
by Lee Frelich
Gary:

Yes, I think they can meet the criteria listed in your slide after being logged. If you look at the second-growth forests inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Voyageurs National Park, and Isle Royale National Park, and many other places in the Midwest, that were logged once, or logged and burned once, with no settlement or agriculture afterwards, there is no difference that these forests are any different than younger early successional stands that originated after natural disturbance, especially if the forests were logged by horse and roads were not built. The difference is at the landscape level, where there is a larger proportion of young or early successional stands than would have been without human intervention. The Pagami Creek Fire (93,000 acres) burned mostly in second growth that was logged in the early 1900s, but now the fire should help push these second growth forests back to a totally natural condition, wiping out the small remnants of direct human intrusion. Indirect intrusion due to global warming seems like a separate issue.

These types of sites are quite different than sites that were logged and settled or farmed and then abandoned, which may take 100s of years to get back to an autopoietic state.

Lee

Re: What qualifies as an Autopoietic Forest

Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:31 pm
by edfrank
Gary,

I hope you keep this topic going. I have tried to have similar conversations with regard to wilderness designations, but could not get a back and forth going. What I really see as a limitation or flaw in your position is the all or nothing choice you have presented. The third (and fourth) options which should be considered is to manage the forest for purposes other than timber production. There are heavily managed forests whose purpose is to serve as a formal garden or park. There also are forests that are managed to retain the characteristics of a native mature forest in a park-like setting. I would like to see more of the last category.

The basic argument and consideration for the latter two options is one of desired end and scale. Forests being managed for parks or for restoration purposes are generally smaller in scale. They certainly could be managed for timber. Leaving them to their own devices might not achieve a good outcome. Smaller scale patches of forest, if left alone, will act much like islands. There will be a slow loss of diversity as native tree species die off and are not replaced. These islands are cut-off from natural replenishment sources. If chance eliminates the few examples of one species, it will be lost to that patch of forest.

Over time there will be a trend toward simplification and loss of diversity, disruption of natural processes found in larger natural forests, and general replacement of some portion of native species with invasive non-native species. Edge effects may extend throughout the entire patch or at least a significant part of the forest patch. If left alone, to natural processes you will always have some type of forest, but it will in no way resemble natural larger scale forests except in a philosophical way. An analogy would be to believe that gravity was only a theory, but you would still be as dead if you jumped off a cliff.

I think these patches could and should be managed to maintain and preserve what is left of these forests to enjoy or to serve as "scale" models of larger natural forest systems. This process would include removal of invasive plants, treatment for diseases and infestations killing the trees - such as HWA, and replacement of trees and plants to maintain diversity.

Perhaps people could not do a perfect job of replication natural processes found in a larger intact forest, but nature is no all knowing and all perfect. Nature is a collection of experiments that is going on continually. Most of the experiments are abject failures, while a few are successful. We just don't see the failures because they don't survive, while the small number of successes are self evident. Nature doesn't know bet. Nature doesn't know anything at all.

Ed Frank

Re: What qualifies as an Autopoietic Forest

Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 5:49 pm
by Joe
Not all "MANaged forests" are simplified tree farms.

Most managed forests are indeed, in my opinion, poorly managed, but that doesn't have to be the case.

Managed forests can retain complexity, diversity, aesthetic value while producing goods for our materialistic society. Such forests certainly will never be as interesting to experience as autopoietic forests for most ENTS but they don't have to be unpleasant either. Some are very nice- if the goal is to go for a hike, out in the fresh air, see and listen to birds, see wildlflowers, etc.

It's all about values- and if the MANager is aware of the value of autopoeitic forests- then he/she can MANage with a lighter touch.
Joe

Re: What qualifies as an Autopoietic Forest

Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 5:57 pm
by Joe
Also, and to get a bit more metaphysical, it's a tough question as to whether or not what humans do is or is not "natural". I suspect we humans are really under the control of complex forces we barely understand- and if that's true, then can anything we do be unnatural?
Joe

Re: What qualifies as an Autopoietic Forest

Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 10:15 pm
by Chris
One problem in my mind is categorization itself. There is a spectrum of forest management, from some patch of remote taiga to a city park. But, I think every forest [and indeed every ecosystem] is managed by humans at some extent. We live in a world with climate change, increased carbon impacts on C4 vs C3 plants, and airborne nutrient deposition. In North American, most forest communities have lost at least one major species [either extinction or extirpated] in the past few hundred years. If we go back even further, most of our large mega-fauna are gone compared to 15,000 years ago. And then there is the perennial topic of fire. I just read in PNAS that in Africa humans have been impacting fire regimes for at least 40,000 years. We are on the scale of humans being important drivers in species and ecosystem evolution.

Re: What qualifies as an Autopoietic Forest

Posted: Wed Feb 08, 2012 10:40 pm
by Gary Beluzo
Joe,

The word "Nature" and "Natural" by definition does not include humans. After doing an exhaustive literature search on "nature" and "natural" I realize that the early philosophers created the word(s) specifically to distinguish what humans do and make ("artificial", "artifact" and "art") from all else ("nature"). However over the last 20-30 years people have used the words "nature" and "natural" to mean very different things in order to lull consumers into buying products with the designation. Therefore I think we need to use a word which is unambiguous when it comes to forests (and other ecosystems). I prefer the word "autopoietic" because although not in widespread use yet, it clearly defines what is meant by "nature" and "natural" without getting caught up in the ambiguity of those overused words. In its most basic sense an Autopoietic Forest is one that is highly adaptive through natural selection, the result of the collective genome interacting with the environment. If a forest is being managed, in any way directed through artificial selection to follow a prescribed trajectory, then it is not autopoietic (ie natural). Whereas an Old Growth forest can arguably be created through silivculture, an Autopoietic Forest by definition cannot. Also, an Autopoietic Forest is an ongoing autogenic process whereas a MAN-aged forest is a product through intent.

Re: What qualifies as an Autopoietic Forest

Posted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 4:56 am
by Joe
Gary Beluzo wrote:Joe,

The word "Nature" and "Natural" by definition does not include humans. After doing an exhaustive literature search on "nature" and "natural" I realize that the early philosophers created the word(s) specifically to distinguish what humans do and make ("artificial", "artifact" and "art") from all else ("nature"). However over the last 20-30 years people have used the words "nature" and "natural" to mean very different things in order to lull consumers into buying products with the designation. Therefore I think we need to use a word which is unambiguous when it comes to forests (and other ecosystems). I prefer the word "autopoietic" because although not in widespread use yet, it clearly defines what is meant by "nature" and "natural" without getting caught up in the ambiguity of those overused words. In its most basic sense an Autopoietic Forest is one that is highly adaptive through natural selection, the result of the collective genome interacting with the environment. If a forest is being managed, in any way directed through artificial selection to follow a prescribed trajectory, then it is not autopoietic (ie natural). Whereas an Old Growth forest can arguably be created through silivculture, an Autopoietic Forest by definition cannot. Also, an Autopoietic Forest is an ongoing autogenic process whereas a MAN-aged forest is a product through intent.

Gary, I don't dispute what you say- but, I think there is a vast difference between good and not so good MAN-agement of forest and that on the better side of the spectrum- it can be rather similar to an autopoietic forest. I try to MANage forests with a very light touch- though it might not seem that way when you see my upcomming video on a biomass harvest- the machines doing the work are monsters- but the result is not a regimented tree farm.
Joe

Re: What qualifies as an Autopoietic Forest

Posted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:02 am
by PAwildernessadvocate
"Lumber covered with bark," ha ha.

Re: What qualifies as an Autopoietic Forest

Posted: Sun Feb 12, 2012 12:19 am
by Don
Gary-
First, I want to thank you for presenting your slide, as heretofore, what an autopoietic forest was, was an enigma to me! Perhaps it still is to an extent...
Second, I agree with Joe, you've thrown in some button-pushing, shows-your-bias phrasing in the 3rd and 4th [and 5th) rows under 'Artificial Forest'. But that isn't the thrust of my post.

I agree with, and like the rest of the slide enough, that "I'll see you, and raise you one"!

For my 'money', the autopoietic forest is the perfect 'core' in the schema presented in one of the basic tenets of Conservation Biology. The idea of an autopoietic forest as an undisturbed core of a forest community/ecosystem, surrounded by a protective 'buffer' where disturbed forests (natural or unnatural for the most part, for me) become MANaged, for old-growth research, where humans are allowed (we should discuss what level of HUMANity is or isn't natural) permitted though not allowed to trammel (essentially the MANagement a 'wilderness' gets), with as much connectivity between core/buffer areas as can be negotiated, permitting the natural transmission of plant and animal 'energies'.
All the remaining areas without sufficient 'resilience' to return an original pre-settlement state, are excellent candidates to see what the timber industry can do when all they get is what they leave themselves. Before it was co-opted, that was called Sustained Yield...

As to your comment that 'old-growth forests' can't by your definition become 'autopoietic forests', "can't" is pretty negative. I'd like to think that with enough Gary's around, some of those autopoietic forests could eventually provide an increased understanding of the ecosystem complexities, so that knowledge could be employed in 'directing' an old-growth forest in that direction. Surely that is a vector benign enough to warrant the substitution of "'may not" for "can't" ?

That's my bias showing...: > )
-Don