Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Among the Ancients

We humans are are but short lived species, compared to some of the ancients on earth.  The term "Old Growth Forest" has many different meanings, but a general rule of thumb would be a forest that has attained significant age (pre-settlement in America) without significant disruption.  They are filled with ancient trees.

These forests are rare and unique communities, and probably less than 1%  of them remain.  Giant Sequoias certainly come to mind, but there are a few examples in our Eastern deciduous forests as well.

 Recently I have been entranced by this book listing 26 forests in the east.  You can believe I have map-quested my way to the ones within striking distance and have made plans to re-visit Ohio's representative in the book: Johnson Woods.  Yes, it is one of our Ohio State Nature Preserves.

 Joan Maloof, the author, gave a compelling program at last week's "Forest Management" seminar at Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  Not only is she a admirer of these big, bodacious trees, she is working hard to protect the last of our giants in arboreal natural history.

Old Growth Forests are rated as more beautiful.
Old Growth Forests are not only more beautiful, they are quantifiably more diverse and often protect unique organisms.  Is it any wonder some of our extinct or nearly extinct bird species (Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Black-backed Woodpeckers) prefer these- now nearly extinct forests?

But is not just beauty and diversity these forests add.  They are also good for our environment.  They have enhanced hydrology and are excellent at carbon sequestration. Both are huge pluses for a world undergoing climatic change. For a long time we thought young forests were better at carbon sequestration, because young trees take up carbon at a higher rate.  However, now we know due to their additional mass, old growth trees sequester carbon just as well.

Learn more about these forests and the goal to protect our remaining ancient trees.  Joan is quick to say she has “no problem with forests set aside for production.”   However, she also believes some
“public forests should exist for more than fiber and dollars.”  

Let's work to set aside ancient forest for our children's children.  These trees can easily outlive us, but only if we protect them now.  Go here to read more about the Old Growth Forest Network.  It is truly  America's Next Idea.

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