Somehow, we are missing the details of creation, the diversity that is so critical in our natural world. It seems we know so much, and yet we know so little! We know how to grow trees, how to plant trees, how to manipulate the genetics and even how to introduce non-indigenous species into new environments, yet we tend to ignore the multitude of inter-related relationships that exist within each forest community. One must admit that planting trees on abandoned agricultural lands or other deforested lands, is better than doing nothing but, plantations are not the best solution. A far better solution is allowing natural regeneration, using seeds from the mother trees surrounding the openings. The difficulty with this approach is that far to many of our openings are very large and most often human caused. We clear-cut trees from hundreds and even thousands of acres instead of treating individual communities. Wildfires consume square miles of forest cover rather than acres, often the result of poor management and lose of diversity. I hope you see where this is leading; the two most important goals of forest land management are health and diversity, not how many board feet of lumber we can grow or how many elk we can produce or how many cattle we can graze! Yes, forestry is far more complex then growing annual crops for food. Trees are unique long- living plants that demand a much more detailed knowledge base to properly manage. Let me finish with one simple example. In a deciduous natural community, you will find a very diverse variety of age groups among the various tree species. The younger sapling and co-dominant trees are growing very slowly due to competition for nutrients and sunlight, consequently their rings are very close together and the wood is very dense. Many of these trees will receive injuries to their bark over their life-time, opening them up to invasion by fungi. Due to the dense wood, fungi find it difficult to invade, thereby allowing the tree to recover and continue life. Plantation grown trees have had most of the competition removed and are able to grow very rapidly with wide growth rings and far less dense wood. This provides an ideal climate for the invasion of fungi and usually leads to the death of the tree. This is one small and simple example of the complexity and detail of trees, that is required to understand the multitude of relationships at work within each forest community and provide the detailed knowledge required to properly manage these complex communities.
The science of managing our natural world demands a close connection to the human element and forestry must accept the challenge to adopt a much deeper understanding of the important role these valuable forest communities play in sustaining life! Technicians know how to implement however, scientists must predict and understand the resulting impacts prior to implementation!