When old growth beats old school

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#11)  Re: When old growth beats old school

Postby Bart Bouricius » Wed Apr 12, 2017 7:02 pm

A quote from a 2014 article in a Yale School of Forestry magazine indicates scientists have found that "more carbon resides in soil than in the atmosphere and all plant life combined; there are 2,500 billion tons of carbon in soil, compared with 800 billion tons in the atmosphere and 560 billion tons in plant and animal life".  If this is true, by ignoring the soil based carbon in a forest environment, as this study seems to do, we are ignoring much of the impact of any sort of forestry we are testing. I suspect there was not enough funding to do adequate soil sampling, however at some point it really should be done, as most forests store more carbon in their soil than above ground.
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#12)  Re: When old growth beats old school

Postby RayA » Wed Apr 12, 2017 9:58 pm

Joe,

 I agree with you that high-grading is abominable, and the practices of many forestry people can and must be greatly improved. I think part of that should be that structural and age diversity should be maintained, as you'd find in old growth. And some large logs (maybe low-value ones?) should be left on the ground, to simulate naturally fallen ones that create micro habitats.

I think far too many trees are removed from a stand in a lot of cases, whether high graded or not. But, I also recognize that if fewer trees are removed from every given plot, then that would create pressure to cut more/greater area to compensate. So I don't have a magic answer to the problem, other than to reduce demand.

I do think that the practice of removing virtually all cut material from a site, leaving just some wood chips, while looking "cleaned up and neat", is not a good idea. Nor is managing for only commercially valuable species, which reduces species diversity.

So much of the second growth forest we have is sorely lacking in ground cover and understory plant material, after having been cleared land. It will take, as you say, centuries to remedy that; and it won't be remedied with current practices and short rotations. Which is why I agree with you that preserves are a must, and need to be of a reasonably large area.

I certainly don't have all the answers, but I think I've seen enough to know our species needs to take better care of our home. As I said earlier, "imitating old growth " may be a step up from current practices, but it's kind of a band-aid. And I don't envy you for your chosen career :)  !
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#13)  Re: When old growth beats old school

Postby Joe » Thu Apr 13, 2017 6:01 am

Bart Bouricius wrote:A quote from a 2014 article in a Yale School of Forestry magazine indicates scientists have found that "more carbon resides in soil than in the atmosphere and all plant life combined; there are 2,500 billion tons of carbon in soil, compared with 800 billion tons in the atmosphere and 560 billion tons in plant and animal life".  If this is true, by ignoring the soil based carbon in a forest environment, as this study seems to do, we are ignoring much of the impact of any sort of forestry we are testing. I suspect there was not enough funding to do adequate soil sampling, however at some point it really should be done, as most forests store more carbon in their soil than above ground.


Bart, if the soil isn't torn up during a logging project- I don't know how much of the carbon could be released. I find it hard to believe that there is more carbon in the soil- the atmosphere is goes pretty high up. I'd like to read that article if you can find it online.

But let's say it's true- and some soil carbon is disturbed and released to the air- certainly that's a bad thing. We might also want to evaluate how much soil carbon is released by building on the landscape- roads, homes, commercial development and last but not least- solar farms- because the solar farm next to my 'hood even resulted in the removal of top soil! I should think much of the carbon in soil is in the topsoil.

So, though forestry, even good forestry, especially if it includes some biomass for energy- releases some carbon - I suspect development of the landscape must be far worse. I have yet to see any hint anywhere that this might be a problem.

I bet if we stopped all land development- but kept doing really good forestry, the overall carbon emission would be a lot less than what's happening currently.

I just hope that all those folks who so despise forestry (not that any are in NTS)- but there are indeed many in Massachusetts who seem to oppose forestry of all sort- I just hope for their karma, that they don't live in a wood house with wood furniture- and that they have never built a new house which paved over some land- and I hope they don't shop at Walmart an other shopping centers which have paved over vast amounts of land, releasing vast amounts of carbon- or, they'd be hypocrites with a lot- a great deal of bad karma.
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#14)  Re: When old growth beats old school

Postby Joe » Thu Apr 13, 2017 6:39 am

Ray, the regs in Mass. are such that if a harvest includes wood going to a biomass power plant or pellet plant- a certain amount of tops/slash must be left on site. That much happens without even trying because when being dragged out- some breaks off- and some "large woody debris" is too clunky and odd shaped or hollow or whatever so they leave it- this is all done for habitat purposes. Also, much "woody debris" builds up at the chipper- and the skidder will drag much of that back into the forests- some will be dropped on muddy roads and other piles will be left all over the site- such piles are said to be useful for wildlife.

When a property is high graded- no consideration is given to any ecological, silvicultural, economic, or aesthetic values. When it's not high graded, consideration is given to those values- but each forester does it differently and to a different extent, some better than others. The enviro groups don't seem to distinguish good forestry work from bad- to many, it's all hideous.

There is no magic number of trees or percentage of trees that should be the goal. It all depends. If a property had been high graded once or more than once- most likely a very  high percentage of the trees are poor quality from a forestry point of view. Then the first genuine silvicultural project should remove a higher percentage of the trees than if it's a stand consisting mostly of nice trees. I've gone as high as 50% of the basal area. Even a formerly high graded stand- if you remove 50%, you will have greatly improved the long term value of the stand.

If a stand is fairly mature and of good quality- a good general rule is to harvest a fourth to a third of the basal area. Since the logging machines are big and have to go pretty much everywhere to get scattered trees- you don't really do less damage by cutting fewer trees- and if you try to do less, the economics of logging won't permit it- and nobody will buy it.

As for managing just for commercially valuable species- it's not quite that simple because there's a gradient of values- it's not that they're either good or bad- and that gradient changes constantly- so it's a bit of a guessing game. In areas like the U.S. South, their forestry is almost like farming- they cut everything, "clean up" the site, and plant the next generation- nothing like that happens in New England, or very seldom.

If thinning a stand- as I walk through the forest- I leave the best of what's in front of me. If I'm walking through a mix of low value trees, I leave the best of the low value species- I don't try to eradicate them. Given the fact that so much of the forests in this region are of poor quality- if we tried to manage for just the high value species- then many projects would be clearcuts- and I happen to hate clearcuts.

I've often marked an oak, or black cherry, or sugar maple- all high value species- if that tree is not growing value- due to slow growth or something wrong with  it and left a nearby low value species like hemlock, poplar, or even pine, which is also a low value species- or mid value, depending on quality.

Forestry - good forestry- is extremely complex- and the classic critiques of forestry don't fully grasp just how complex it is- and how much good foresters attempt to consider a balance of economics, biodiversity, aesthetics, etc. Good forestry is rare- bad forestry is the norm. Unfortunately, 99% of the criticism of forestry assumes it's all bad and that good forestry is not possible. I've pushed for a lot of reforms of forestry- getting 0% support from forestry people and slightly more from the enviros- with the result, of no reform.

You say there is a shortage of ground cover. There is in places but I don't think it's all that common. In many areas- the problem is due to excessive deer populations. In other areas, it's due to very dry soils. In other areas, it's due to invasive species. I doubt that much of this problem is due to heavy logging. Many forest stands with high volumes of timber- have very little or no ground cover- especially mature stands of conifers- which cast heavy shade. If you thin those stands, especially if fairly heavily, you'll see plenty ground cover within a few years. It's inevitable- if the sunlight hits the ground- and the ground is fertile with moisture, plants will grow there - sometimes it's new trees or ferns or herbaceous plants.

As for short rotations- that's a complex problem too. Ideally, very light harvest every 10-15 years would eventually develop into nice forests. The better the forest becomes, the longer you can extend the rotations. Let's say a stand has been thinned 2-3 always leaving the best trees- now it's mostly oak, pine, sugar maple mix- with a scattering of poplar, hemlock, hickory, butternut, red maple, etc. Mostly straight healthy trees with good crowns- with the high value species making up maybe 3/4 of the basal area. Such a stand is now probably adding value at a high level- so it's like an investment in a blue chip stock (no pun intended)- then there would be no reason to cut again for at least 3 decades- based strictly on economics.

That is, and I'll let this rest for now- TRUE economic forestry is actually in tune with good ecological forestry. Most forestry is not only bad ecology, it's also bad economics- after all, high grading is terrible economics, other than for the logger's short term interest, not the owners.

Oh, again, I'll emphasize- forestry, even good forestry, ain't perfect  - but, it's a lot more perfect than seeing a new shopping center or new subdivision and I particularly detest so called solar "farms". They are popping up like mushrooms in the north central Mass. area- all paving over fields and forests- while claiming to be "clean and green" energy.

Joe

PS: as to forestry being my chosen career- it really wasn't- I kept changing my mind in college- and changing my major several times- but the college finally told me that I can't keep doing that - so I had to stick with the last one I was in- forestry- if I had more time to be a professional student- my next would have been geology and the final would have been cosmology, after all, what's more exciting that cosmology?
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#15)  Re: When old growth beats old school

Postby RayA » Thu Apr 13, 2017 7:43 am

Joe,

 Re the ground cover issue, I should have been more clear, but was trying to keep my comments brief. I meant that when forests were cleared from most of the state, most herbaceous and ground-level plant species were removed, and even with the return of forests (even totally unmanaged ones) it will take centuries to get something comparable back (and maybe it will never happen). Certainly, dry sites wouldn't look like those with higher moisture levels, and different soils will have different cover, etc. But even on moist sites that could have a very lush look (mosses, ferns, lichens, flowering plants, shrubs, etc), too-heavy and too-frequent cutting can dry these sites out, reducing the diversity and quantity of plant and (some) animal species. Churning up the duff layer with heavy equipment is regrettable too, though I realize it's largely unavoidable with today's technology.

My ranting can all be blamed on Brother Bob... if he hadn't shown me our old growth remnants decades ago, places with gorgeous moss- and fern-covered boulders, trees of all ages, sizes, and conditions, I'd probably still be thinking that places like Quabbin reservoir were just great. Granted, the places I just described are moist sites; but had they been logged, even long ago, would they look like that today? I think not.

Leaving a layer of wood chips on the forest floor is better than leaving no wood debris, but I believe it's better to have what nature would have... an intact leaf litter layer without wood chips, and with coarse large and small logs, limbs, etc, that provide varied verticality, moisture retention, slowly-decaying material, invertebrate habitat, etc.  A several-inch thick layer of quickly decomposing chips and a bit of slash doesn't compare. And hauling all the material away to burn as biomass... that doesn't strike me as any more desirable than those wretched solar farms that we both detest (they belong on rooftops).

Again, this is why we need a reasonable area of old growth (or future old growth) preserves, left unmanaged.
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