Forest management

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Here's a fun fact on forestry that I can guarantee that you did NOT know before reading it here:

About one-sixth of the wood delivered to a construction site is never used. Instead, it's hauled to the landfill as wood waste scraps. [1]

Background

The term forest management refers to the sustainable conservation and artificial controlling of forests in order to maintain and protect them as well as to prevent the consequences that arise when forest resources are abused. Global climate change is caused by the release of greenhouse gases, most importantly carbon, into the atmosphere. Trees and vegetation absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen in photosynthesis. Therefore the more trees around, the more carbon absorbed from the atmosphere. In addition to this, the forestry industry releases carbon through the burning of wood and the usage of forest resources for combustion, manufacturing and transportation. The forestry industry was responsible for about 17% of the total greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.[2] Although forest management is a potential solution to global climate change, it is not solely adopted for global warming mitigation but also to conserve and control the economics of forest resource exploitation and availability by local governments. However, the focus will be on the technical, economic, political, socio-cultural and geographical impacts of forest management as a potential global warming solution.


Forest management is commonly thought of as a decrease in the number of trees we cut down per year. Deforestation is a major part of the problem when it comes to forest depletion and degradation, but the answer to achieving sustainable forestry is much more complex than trying to get people and nations to stop cutting down trees. The management of forests can be done in several different ways, each with its own economic and socio-cultural impacts and with its own conditions required for success. Possible ways of managing forests could include natural regeneration, artificial regeneration, erosion control, fire prevention and control as well insect and disease control to name the major strategies that will be elaborated on here. [3]

Natural Regeneration

The first strategy of forest management and one of the most important ones is natural regeneration. Natural regeneration involves a process of tree selection, be it in single trees or units of land; where trees are cut down (usually marketable ones such as timber or oak) in order to create gaps for future seedlings to grow. [4] This ensures the best possible use of soil, light and space. Natural regeneration is not a rapid process and involves much planning and strategizing as to which trees should be felled, how much space should be left and how the forest will be regulated so that no more than the designated trees are removed from the forest space. It is important to remember that in natural regeneration, surrounding trees must be left standing to provide shelter for the seedlings and to prevent erosion and flooding.

Natural regeneration creates long term economic benefits at the cost of short term economic costs. One of these costs includes cutbacks for the people in the forestry industry and for governments. The reduction in the number of trees cut will cause a significant decrease in money brought in through forestry in the immediate future. However, the healthy regeneration of trees will provide more resources to be sustainably used. Once a sustainable system of forestry is implemented, the immediate costs will inevitably be detrimental as it involves a reduction in the mass felling that has occurred for decades. Governments can relieve this economic stress by providing subsidies for the locals in the forestry industry so their business can be sustained until the longer term economic benefits can be enjoyed. Governments must sternly institute policies regulating the limits and areas for sustainable forestry for this global warming solution to be successful.


NATURAL REGENERATION SPACING- Timber Forest [5]

Natural Regeneration.jpeg


The socio-cultural impacts of natural regeneration are largely linked to the short term economic impacts as populations that have been dependent on forestry and felling for centuries will be forced to give up years of tradition and employment. Tribal cultures in particular who are heavily dependent on wood as a resource for both commercial and sustainable farming and usage will be affected by the implementation of natural regeneration.

For natural regeneration to have a significant impact on the carbon footprint of a nation, it must be adopted on a large scale and over an extended period of time. Many trees take 15-20 years to mature from seedlings and this is the time necessary for the real benefits of natural regeneration to be available. Also, the environmental benefits of natural regeneration are seen in the long-term by the healthy regeneration of trees through seedlings using the improved soil, light and increased space. [3] Therefore, the potential global warming solution of forest management should not be implemented on its own but alongside other strategies both in forest management as well as in other sectors (such as alternative energy or carbon taxing).

Artificial Regeneration

A second form of forest management which is very similar to natural generation is artificial regeneration. This involves the direct planting of seeds or the planting of seedlings by hand or machine. [6] One major advantage of artificial regeneration over natural is that humans can modify the species inhabiting the area. Caution must be taken however that the species be adapted to the site it is planted in so as to avoid alien species from dominating the local ecosystem and interrupting the dynamic equilibrium. With the advanced technologies available today by huge enterprises such as Monsanto, seeds can be genetically modified to be a crop of high-yield or to mass produce seedlings. Through such technologies, orchards of trees of superior genetic quality can be created which maximizes the usage of the soil while maintaining sustainability. [3] Artificial regeneration is much faster than natural regeneration due to genetically modified seeds, although it brings along risks with it that natural regeneration does not. Natural laws define natural regeneration and humans only facilitate it through strategic felling, compared to artificial regeneration where humans insert potentially harmful chemicals into the soil and ecosystems that can adversely affect consumers as well as the environment. Therefore special care must be taken and special regulation must be in place in order for artificial regeneration to achieve its potential as a global warming solution.

Planting seedlings is one of the most costly investments in production in the forestry industry. The process of artificial regeneration involves the selection of the species to plant, the density of the species that will be planted, the possibility of mixing species for adaptation, the prime season for planting and flourishing, preparation of the site prior to planting (such as enrichment of the soil or selective felling) and lastly, instituting the method of planting. [7] Every step in this procedure requires some measure of finances that vary depending on the scale of the artificial regeneration project. However, these steps require much specialist work and prior research and testing and is therefore more of a scientific exploration which requires significantly more money than natural regeneration would. “The efficacy of reforestation is contingent on favorable climate conditions. Deforested soils tend to dry out and they are often low in nutrients because most of the ecosystem nutrients were stored in the harvested trees.” [2] Concepts such as the one mentioned above need to be taken into account when planning both types of regeneration, but in particular artificial regeneration as it requires more human decision making.

The socio-cultural impacts of artificial regeneration are very similar to those of natural regeneration. In artificial regeneration, more leniency is allowed due to the ability to choose species and genetically modify seedlings to mass produce faster. Therefore local populations who are dependent on forestry resources will be enjoying the benefits faster than natural regeneration. This idea works vice versa as the costs will appear faster also. These may include chemical poisoning or the creation of super weeds (alien species resistant to pesticides) for example.

For artificial regeneration to have a significant impact, it should also be adopted on a large scale. However, it would be more functional than natural regeneration on a small scale as the seedlings can be genetically modified to mass produce. If implemented over a long period of time, artificial regeneration can lead to large economic and environmental benefits as carbon is absorbed by the increasing vegetation and available forestry resources increase exponentially over time. The benefits of artificial regeneration only increase over time but can also be reaped in the short term which is a large advantage of this management strategy.

Control strategies

A more policy-related strategy is one of control regarding erosion, fire prevention and insect and disease in the forests. The most common form of erosion control is a simple procedure in forest management; it involves felling one tree per unit area and creating a gap that is rapidly closed by the outward growth of the trees surrounding it. This therefore prevents the erosion of the soil due to overpopulation of trees and the lack of nutrients.

Forest fires do not occur often in tropical rainforests due to the constant precipitation and humidity; however they do run rampant in dry zones such as coniferous forests where both the air and natural fuel (weeds, trees, grass etc) are dry. It is a fact that nearly 95% of all forest fires are caused by people and lightning strikes account for only 1-2%, hence where the problem lies to be corrected. Forest fire prevention includes public education programs, hazard reduction and law enforcement, all which require significantly high amounts of time and money. The two steps involved in controlling forest fires are reducing risk and reducing hazard. [3] Risk is controlled through the steps mentioned above for forest fire prevention, and hazard is reduced by splitting up a forest with alleyways in which all vegetation is removed so fires aren’t as easily spread. Hazard is also reduced by reducing the buildup of fuel such as debris and under canopy litter also to prevent the spread of a forest fire should it occur.


Forest Fire in Sequoia Forest in California, 1995

Seqouia Forest Fire.jpeg [8]


The final control strategy is insect and disease control. There are a large number of fungi, bacteria, viruses and insects in the natural environment, but despite popular assumption, most of these are beneficial as detritivores and are essential to many natural cycles of an ecosystem. The ones that are destructive are usually held down by their natural enemies and a balance is maintained by the laws of nature. However, insects and diseases that are entered from other sites or parts of the world cause a serious threat of potential epidemics as there is no natural control. Not surprisingly, the guilty party for the transportation of foreign insects, viruses and spores is globalization and the world becoming almost “flat” through the shrinking of time and space. To manage this, a process of selective thinning of susceptible trees keeps forests healthier as susceptible trees promote the build-up of detrimental cultures on the site. [3]

The most expensive control to implement is fire control.This is due to the existence of so many components involved in risk prevention and hazard control. The second most expensive method is the control of insect and disease populations as this is also done through pesticides and chemical methods to avoid plagues in the forest. Disease control strategies are often not economically friendly as it means a loss of vegetation and trees in an attempt to create a reduction in unwanted bacteria and insects. The most cost effective control method is erosion control as it involves the felling of only a few trees in an effort to make a gap for others. This involves strategizing and professional planning but is not as costly as the other control methods.

One advantage of control strategies is that they are not so much about drastic change in habitual activity as they are about awareness and maintenance towards sustainability. In controlling fires, erosion and insect and disease cultures, local populations are benefitting in both the long and the short term from the consequences. Less disease means increased production in forest resources, less erosion means larger, healthier trees and less fires means less risk of losing resources. Then there is also the benefit of a healthier forest environment which benefits cultures that are dependent on the forest and its resources.

Control should occur on a large scale in every forest where erosion, fires, disease and insects cause a significant loss of trees and resources. In order for this strategy to productively manage forests, it needs to be done continuously. If control stops, the problem resumes. In implementing this strategy, there is a long-term commitment involved that must be upheld by the local government and the people involved in order to be successful.

Conclusion

As seen in the above strategy propositions, forest management can have positive impacts as a potential solution to global climate change if properly regulated, instituted and maintained. Some of the implementation processes are long and economically draining, but each strategy proved to have positive long term benefits (and occasionally short term ones as well) environmentally, economically and socio-culturally. Forest management is not the solution for every nation or region to adopt. Nations whose carbon footprint is largely affected by forestry should begin implementing one or more of these strategies as seen most adequately suited for the region. Nations without large forests contributing to their carbon emission statistics should focus on other solutions to global warming outlined in this site.

Notes

  1. "Forest Facts." Issues: Wildlands. 27 Aug 2004. National Resources Defense Council. 21 Oct 2008 <http://www.nrdc.org/land/forests/fforestf.asp>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Mann
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Forestry." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 26 Oct. 2008 http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/213554/forestry
  4. Duryea, Mary L.. "Forest Regeneration Methods: Natural Regeneration, Direct Seeding and Planting." University of Florida IFAS Extension. Mar 2000. Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. 26 Oct 2008 http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/FR024
  5. "Resource." Grant Timbers. 27 Oct 2008 <http://www.granttimbers.com.au/resource.php>
  6. USDA Forest Service. 1989. INTERIM RESOURCE INVENTORY GLOSSARY. Document dated June 14, 1989. File 1900.Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 96 p.
  7. Barnett, James P.. "ARTIFICIAL REGENERATION: AN ESSENTIAL COMPONENT OF LONGLEAF PINE ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION." Southern Research Station Headquarters. 2000. USDA. 28 Oct 2008 http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/9718
  8. Gehman, Raymond. "California, Sequoia Forest Fire, 1995." Photography. National Geographic. 27 Oct 2008 <http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/wallpaper/sequoia-forest-fire_pod_image.html>