Lists and ENTS

A selection of founder Robert Leverett's more philosophical posts and trip reports.

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dbhguru
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Lists and ENTS

Post by dbhguru » Sat May 29, 2010 7:15 pm

ENTS,

About once a year the topic of lists comes up on my radar scope. At these times, I'm not out to review the lists we keep for currency, but rather our approach to subject of lists. This always brings me to a question. How do we in ENTS see our role with lists vis a vie forests and trees? Are lists just things that happen without much thought? Are they driven by the particular interests of a few individuals? Do we find ourselves tiring of lists and their maintenance? I suppose some fatigue is to be expected, but in a sense our dedication to forest and tree lists can be thought of as a measure of our seriousness. But before I get myself in trouble, let me amplify.

ENTS is a big tent. We welcome people from all kinds of backgrounds and levels of interest. We have room for folks who want to share with us their passion for trees through no particular mission or agenda. For them trees as a casual focus of attention is enough. For them ENTS need not be goal driven. We embrace these gentle souls. There's a place for them. However, ENTS did not have its birth in a relaxed atmosphere. It was born of fire, the fire of desire and passion. We wanted to make a difference. Two of the original five were (and are) driven tree measurers. We were later joined by equally driven measurers, but all tree measurers are not born equal. The class can be divided into at least three groups. There are tree measurers who seek to hunt champion trees in support of the National Register and/or one or more state programs. These folks typically feed numbers to others who maintain the registers. Members of this group may keep detailed notes, but don't not spend a lot of time in general list maintenance. There is a second group that measures trees for scientific research purposes. Lists, as such, may or may not carry a high priority for members of this group. They are serious data gatherers, but the results of their labors span the spectrum of output formats - often complex charts and graphs. Then there is a third group of tree measurers, the members of which seem to have a deep-seated need to maintain lists. These are list-compulsive people. Tree list people have counterparts in mountain climbing and hiking, bird watching, and many other endeavors. They are well represented in professional sports. It is no secret that I belong to this third group.

What does my group see as the purposes and benefits of lists? Well, I see ordered lists as a quick, efficient way of providing information about a topic. I also see ordered lists as making a statement about what we consider important. In particular, top-down lists serve that purpose, i.e. hierarchical lists. My tree lists are a way of providing a top-down view of species and forest sites that provide a lot of easy t digest information that can dis-spell the flood of dimensional misinformation that circulates through articles, books, and the Internet. As a consequence of our driven nature and slavish dedication to lists, we are becoming the gold standard with respect to what sources can be relied on in the world of big eastern trees. If tree-savvy people who peruse the Internet accept that we are dead serious in keeping up our lists and insuring they are accurate, then increasingly, we will be the source serious researcher turn to for the kind of data we maintain - and who among us can argue against the need. As it now stands, there are no standards or quality control in the world of tree lists or information derived from lists. But this is an assertion that on the surface non-Ents may feel justified in challenging. We can get a better handle on this list deficiency through a little mental exercise.

Let's assume a nature writer wants to do an article on Liriodendron tulipifera and in the article the writer wants to address the following questions.

1. What is the historical range of the species?

2. Where has it been naturalized outside its original range?

3. How is the species best propagated?

4. How fast can the species grow?

5. What are its primary uses?

6. What is its role in forest succession?

7. What diseases effect the species?

8. How does the tuliptree reproduce?

9. What is the maximum age ever recorded for a tuliptree?

10. What is a common old age for the species?

11. Historically, how large did the species get and where?

12. Where can one go today to see outstanding stands of tulips in various parts of its range?

13. What is the largest tulip we know of today?

14. What is the tallest tulip we know of today?

15. How do the species' maximum dimensions vary across its natural range?

16. How will climate change likely effect the species?

17. What wildlife species use the tuliptree?

18. What are some historically important tuliptrees?

19. Does the tuliptree ever become an invasive?

20. Where does the tuliptree fit in evolutionary ladder?

I've mixed up the questions a bit, and covered a wide range of interesting topics. How available are the answers to our nature writer? Well, the writer can find authoritative answers for questions 1,3,5,6,7, 8,16,17,19, and 20. Our writer may have to do some digging, but should find acceptable answers for 2,4, and 19, but our writer is in trouble to one degree or another with questions 9-15. The information on great trees of the past is limited and often of questionable reliability. Still there are accounts that can be relied upon such as the work of naturalist Robert Ridgeway. So for the purposes of the article, question 11 might be adequately covered. Since question 12 is expressed qualitatively rather than quantitatively, it can be answered well for some geographical parts of the species range, and less so far others. It is with questions 13-15 that present our writer with the biggest challenge. If our writer is unaware of ENTS or chooses to ignore us, the the information given for 13-15 will likely be in error, and possibly by a lot. The writer will likely turn to the National Register to answer question 13. However, the Sag Branch Tuliptree is likely larger than the so-called national champion by 500 cubic feet, if not more. Question 14 is guaranteed to be answered incorrectly unless the writer turns to ENTS, and question 15 is so far beyond any big tree list or other current source of information, except ENTS as to better be about the geology of the dark side of the moon.

Our lists and list compulsion fits a niche, but a niche not filled by anyone else - at least not today. With LIDAR, things may change in the future, but we'll be employing that technology thanks to Josh Kelly. We'll likely still be on top, because there will be a need for ground-truthing and that is simply out of the question without lasers and one heck of a lot of experience measuring trees in closed canopy environments.

My conclusion is that we are the gates of the golden age of useful, accurate big tree lists. The upcoming ENTS database can be the vehicle for making our data available to the masses, so that people like our hypothetical writer can quote from reliable source, the clouds will part, the sun will shine, and all will be well in Middle Earth. James, are you psyched up to be the pitch pine guru of ENTS?

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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James Parton
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Re: Lists and ENTS

Post by James Parton » Sat May 29, 2010 7:51 pm

Bob,

Oh, yeah. psyched! And I have nearby Will Blozan to help me locate them. I just gotta Git-er-Done!

James
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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edfrank
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Re: Lists and ENTS

Post by edfrank » Sat May 29, 2010 7:55 pm

James,

Where did you buy your "Git-er-Done"? I could use some extra.

Ed
"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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James Parton
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Re: Lists and ENTS

Post by James Parton » Sat May 29, 2010 8:02 pm

Ed,

It grows on trees here in the southland.

James
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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dbhguru
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Re: Lists and ENTS

Post by dbhguru » Sun May 30, 2010 7:21 am

Ed, James,

Essence of git-er-done grows super well on Massachusetts white pines and okay on New Hampshire and Vermont pines. Not sure about the rest of New England. Pennsylvania whites used to have it in abundance, but word is that PA pine git-er-done is subject to a wilt. But fortunately, git-er-done of the pine variety is known to be absorbed by a humans with high morals and possessing of a fine forest spirit. Consequently, we, the Massachusetts squad (John, Andrew, Gary, Bart, and me) will gladly travel to PA and reinvigorate the suffering PA pines with Essence of Mass pine git-er-done.

The big question is whether or not git-er-done from the north mixes well with that of the south. The jury is still out, but fortunately, some of us can absorb either variety and convert it to a generic mix. Good grief, what is in this coffee? Dunno, but gotta git out there in Trout Brook today. Gotta big measurin job ta do and gotta git-er-done.

Old Burl-belly Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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