By Alan Cameron Page, Research Forester Green Diamond Systems
“We must learn to reject as total evil the conception that the common good is served by the abolition of individual rights. General happiness cannot be created out of general suffering and self-immolation. The only happy society is one of happy individuals.
One cannot have a healthy forest made up of rotten trees.
The power of society must always be limited by the basic, inalienable rights of the individual. The right of liberty means man’s right to individual action, individual choice, individual initiative and individual property. Without the right to private property no independent action is possible.” From KID ATLAS pg 59
Forest Processes – from tree to regional forest cover
A tree is called a tree because of the structure that evolves from the specific ways that resource use is controlled, allocated and promoted. This set of tree specific “goals” appear to apply to most such vertically committed organisms that this author has encountered (palm trees and bamboo have different growth processes).
Forests and trees grow and mature on a time frame that is much shorter than either the soil formation processes, the geologic based topographic change or the solar / galactic impacts of known cyclic nature. There also appear to be very rapid external (solar or galactic) affects that can occur without warning and change everything in their path. Forests of any stage may not be any impediment to such impacts.
Forests are groups of trees that compete for resources among themselves to survive for very long periods in comparison to a human generation.
Trees as Part of a Forest
Trees produce sugar and other compounds in the leaves or needles on the branches. The tree may use these items as a currency that may be released to different parts of the tree for the accomplishment of the “goals” of that tree or they may be stored as “savings” for later use.
Sugar is made in several steps from CO2 and water using light as an energy source to break the CO2 into carbon a component of the sugar and O2 a waste product. Wood is formed from the combination of sugar and other compounds into a wide range of cell types. The cells form where the are needed to do “jobs” that may change over time. This group of processes makes up the “economy of the tree”; it functions normally without money.
The Natural Forest
Much of this region’s forest is basically “abandoned”, a place not touched / “managed” by humans within 15+ years. This forest comprises most of the rural sector of this region. The oldest privately held forest here is between 70 to 150 years old.
There are many different reasons for forest ownership and the capabilities of each owner may differ from their neighbors, thus resulting in a myriad of small blocks of land with trees of different age classes and species structures. All these micro-differences exist within this aging population of the regional forest that originated from a near “clean slate” after the wholesale abandonment of the prior agricultural endeavors.
“Natural” forest found anywhere is composed of the dominant species enabled by the climatic zone and the moderating influences of large rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and sea shores as well as the topographic profile left by the geologic processes mentioned above. Plantations are affected by the same environment but the early sorting has been done by choices made by humans. Later as the stand ages and resources become more limiting the “sorting” inevitably picks up again to lessen the competition as the trees get larger.
Much of this forest originated from the abandonment of fields where sheep or other stock were raised to supply raw material to local water powered mills that could upgrade the items into higher value products before export. Wherever transport, labor, and funding was possible or available forest products may have been recovered before other less-time-dependent crops were tried.
The Harvard Forest has many dioramas of the process that is being described. Below is a photo from the collection.
There are examples everywhere of the sequence of local tree species recolonizing fields or openings that have been recently abandoned or created. This haphazard natural revegetation is happening because there is no recognition of the value of early recolonization of such land with potentially humanly desirable species – this sequence is ongoing and normal. However, this natural sequence frequently results in an initial forest of short lived-early successional species,many of which are “weed” trees that will have little value for anything beyond firewood or other energy production. This is not necessarily bad, but it removes this land as a future value source in the short run – this fits in with other official agendas as we will see.
With sufficient time the vertical habit of trees may sort out species that are able to survive and produce valuable wood for human use. There may be intrinsic value to any species or form of tree, but the industrial culture appears to have chosen to ignore that value.
Tending a Forest
Natural processes happen as if by chance and may be viewed as just the way things are. However, humans live in a different time horizon than many trees and the natural sorting of species and tree-stem-forms may take so long as to appear impossible to repeat. We will address the issues around this set of processes briefly. This care bridges all of the three main areas of interest, Rural Stability, Cultural Limitations, and Economics.
Any gardener knows that carrots do not grow well and will not yield a good crop without help from the gardener’s well timed effort in all of the following activities – failure to follow through will reduce the crop yield:
1) providing a place for good carrot growth (deep soil, lack of rocks, lack of overhead vegetation, etc.),
2) planting the seed at the correct spacing and depth, thinning at an appropriate time,
3) regular weeding,
4) keeping chipmunks, rabbits and woodchucks to a minimum, and
5) finally harvesting the crop without damage.
Such tending of short term crops requires investment most of which can (currently) only be compensated with interest when a harvest happens. Annual crops provide liquidity that is closely tied to the human time scale. Even so maintenance of soil fertility may have long term costs that are avoided wherever possible.
Without the regular tending of forests there is a lot of change that can be missed which may result in large loses of potential income. The picture of a dead red oak is such an unexpected event that happened to a very productive portion of a holding during a gypsy moth attack. Note also the trees that are dead in the back of the picture. Many of these trees were just out competed and be ascribed to natural mortality that occurs as a stand ages.
Note to our readers:
Alan Page has joined our AIM team to help educate us about forest management, a subject many of us may not have taken up in secondary school, college, or self-education. We asked Alan to tell us a bit about himself so that you know his background. Alan writes:
See Alan’s previous article in this series: