Henry Gibson - a wealth of historical inforamtion

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#1)  Henry Gibson - a wealth of historical inforamtion

Postby dbhguru » Sat Jan 09, 2016 5:30 pm

Ents,

 I've been perusing the Google Book American Forest Trees, by Henry H. Gibson. The book was published in 1913 and it isa gold mine of information on many native species. It is written principally from a timber perspective, but it is information rich on species geographical ranges, common names, structural features of different woods, historic uses, physical dimensions, etc. Ah yes, physical dimensions. Although Gibson must draw from other sources, he nonetheless often conveys what is typical versus exceptional for a species. For many species, he does pretty darn well. Here is an example. The quote below covers the eastern cottonwood.

Its range covers practically all of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. It is rare or missing in eastern New England and southern Florida, and most abundant in the Mississippi valley, and there the largest trees are found. Some exceed 100 feet in height, and four in diameter. Extreme sizes of 140 feet in height with diameters of from seven to nine have been reported.

 How do Gibson's dimensions jive with what we know today? Well, the cottonwood commonly exceeds 100 feet in height, but above 130 feet, the population of tall trees falls dramatically. Gibson's figure of a maximum of 140 feet is pretty close, and maximum girths of 7 to 9 feet is also close. In addition, the geographical area over which the cottonwood can reach or slightly surpass 130 feet is much greater than Gibson realized. As for girth, New York state is loaded with cottonwoods that exceed 4 feet in diameter, and there are plenty here in Massachusetts. That is for starters.

 Nonetheless, Gibson wrote his guide in 1913. So, I'd give Gibson a pretty good mark for his cottonwood report. I wonder why so many tree guide authors who followed him failed to match his understanding. I wonder if the ridiculously high height maximum of 190 feet often listed for cottonwood came about from mis-measurements through the champion tree programs. Hmmm, could I be on to something? Still, other authors seem to have drawn from Gibson or Gibson's sources. Here are some examples of what noted sources/authors say.

Source: Identifying Trees
Author: Michale D. Williams
Cottonwood Dimensions: "reach matute sizes of over 100 feet in height and 4 feet in diameter at breast height"
Comments: Williams may have used Gibson. It is easy to find cottonwoods over 4 feet in diameter.

Source: The Sibley Guide to Trees
Author: David Allen Sibley
Cottonwood Dimensions: "Large tree often 60-90 feet tall (max. 170)"  
Comments: e'd have to sit on the top of a cottonwood to hold it to 60 feet. We've never measured one to 170, and I don't expect we will.

Source: The Complete Trees of North America
Author: Thomas S. Elias
Cottonwood Dimensions: "Often reaching 120 feet in 30 years", "tall tree,  72 - 100 ft, rarely to 165"
Comments: Dr. Elias is a renown expert, but even he publishes conflicting and erroneous heights. The above description speaks for itself.

Source: Silvics of North America Vol II Hardwoods
Author: D.A. Cooper
Cottonwood Dimensions: "Eastern cottonwood is one of the tallest species east of the Rocky Mountains. Heights of 53 to 58 in (175 to 190 ft)"
Comments: This is one of the sources for the sometimes quoted 190-foot maximum.

 More to come on other species.

Bob
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#2)  Re: Henry Gibson - a wealth of historical inforamtion

Postby Larry Tucei » Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:43 am

Bob-  I'm very interested in Books of this nature.  William Bartram Documented some great information on the southeastern trees in 1780's if my memory serves me. He described some of them to 10' in Dia. the Oaks that is most Likely Cherry Bark and Live Oak. He mentions them as tall but I don't recall any numbers on the heights. I'll have to dig it up. Larry
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#3)  Re: Henry Gibson - a wealth of historical inforamtion

Postby dbhguru » Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:24 am

Larry,

  As we have seen, information on tree dimensional maximums is a case of newer sources repeating older sources, and those early sources usually being incomplete or dead wrong. Sometimes maximum dimensions quoted reflect what landscapers expect out of 40-year old cultivars or young roadside trees with no understanding of what a species can do in the wild. Those authors often present  a height range of 60 to 70 feet with a number like 150 shown afterwards in parenthesis. There is seldom an explanation given for the parenthetical number because the author really has no clue. Authors who are forest managers may present maximums that reflect what they see the species doing in plantations or on 40 to 60-year rotations. The usually have plenty of data for their size ranges, but they seldom have a sense of what a species does, or can do, in the wild. They quote historical anecdotal sources. This leads to understated maximums.

  In the case of species like black birch, a combination of factors has led to an under-appreciation of what the species is actually doing across the countryside. We in NTS are sensitive to the reasons for over and under-estimation, but only marginally positioned to be a force for wide scale education. More on this topic to come.

Bob
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#4)  Re: Henry Gibson - a wealth of historical inforamtion

Postby Joe » Mon Jan 11, 2016 1:20 pm

dbhguru wrote:Larry,

  As we have seen, information on tree dimensional maximums is a case of newer sources repeating older sources, and those early sources usually being incomplete or dead wrong. Bob


I'd venture to say that many people who give such information- really just don't care how accurate it is- which gets me back to my perennial request to see an essay saying why such measurements are EXTREMELY important.

It's obviously IMPORTANT when an engineer designs a bridge or an architect designs a building- to get the numbers PRECISE. Everyone knows that. We also know that if a rocket scientist is sending a rocket to Pluto- his numbers had better dam well be precise to many decimal places. But, most people thing that plus or minus 20% is good enough for tree measurements.
Joe

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#5)  Re: Henry Gibson - a wealth of historical inforamtion

Postby dbhguru » Mon Jan 11, 2016 6:18 pm

Joe,

  I truly do not know how to convince professionals associated with forests and trees that accuracy is needed if they don't understand the need for it now. I do know that rainforest scientists are looking to make better volume and mass measurements of large tropical trees. I expect that anyone who needs reliable measurements for better growth modeling and carbon sequestering is on board with the need to get accurate dimensions. These professionals probably pay no attention to the conventional sources of dimensional information, i.e the ones seen in tree guides. They pursue their own research. Steve Sillett recently sent me 3 technical papers on his and BVP's redwood and eucalyptus modeling. Those papers are super dense, scientifically speaking, and the study methodologies they employ are absolutely state of the art. At that end of the science-technology spectrum, no selling is needed. They have to be right, but dropping down multiple rungs in the ladder, the situation obviously changes. I suppose the higher levels of accuracy are not needed for what they are doing. But then, they shouldn't pose as the experts, speaking for the species when queried by writers seeking the correct numbers.They should recuse themselves.

  For myself, I'm compulsive about accuracy in numbers. It isn't applied only to tree measurements. I have the same reaction to the foolish numerical stuff put out on the nature shows by the narrators who often use a term like "hundreds" where the maximum might be 110 at most. A vague term like hundreds could mean 800. So why be so vague, imprecise?

 Accuracy with tree numbers as general information to the public probably will never be high priority because so many people are numerically illiterate, but one would think that within professions that deal with trees, spokespersons wouldn't want to be caught saying things that are manifestly ridiculous. You'd think.

Bob
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#6)  Re: Henry Gibson - a wealth of historical inforamtion

Postby Lucas » Mon Jan 11, 2016 7:56 pm

​On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit

http://journal.sjdm.org/15/15923a/jdm15923a.pdf

What you are fighting.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir
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#7)  Re: Henry Gibson - a wealth of historical inforamtion

Postby Lucas » Mon Jan 11, 2016 7:58 pm

We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir
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#8)  Re: Henry Gibson - a wealth of historical inforamtion

Postby dbhguru » Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:10 pm

Lucas,

  I had forgotten where the Henry Gibson book discovery came from. We are indebted to you.

Bob
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#9)  Re: Henry Gibson - a wealth of historical inforamtion

Postby edfrank » Mon Feb 13, 2017 7:06 pm

It can be downloaded from multiple sources:

               
                       
gibson.JPG
                                       
               


ttp://www.gutenberg.org/files/42124/42124-h/42124-h.htm

https://books.google.com/books/about/Am ... MAAJ&hl=en

https://archive.org/details/americanforestt00gibs

Edward Frank
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky
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