Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Dutch really do love their wood

On New Year's eve, I had a fascinating conversation with a UNBC student Ben Heemskerk. At first, he said he was leary about discussing his field of study, because he fears that it bores people! Well let me tell you something buddy, no one is more boring than me!

After much poking, proding, and question-asking on my behalf, Ben shared some rather fascinting information with me about forest management and ecology. Now lest you all think that Temujin has gone envio-nutty on you, let me make this clear: neither Ben Heemskerk nor myself are envioweenies.

Part of Ben's work is the rather daunting task of putting together a working model that will help researchers see the correlation between wildlife, habitat, and forest management. He isn't asking questions about whether a tree falling in the forest makes a sound if no one is around, but he most certainly is interested in how long it takes for that fallen tree to decay.

Ben has an essay up on the web right now, in Adobe .pdf format. It is a little more than a year old, and can be found here. It is entitled "Relating Functional Wildlife Tree Types to Tree Species and Diameter Across Different Forest Ecosystems", but don't be scared off by that! It really is a fascinating read, and anyone who has taken any post-secondary education will see that Ben put a whole lotta work into this sucker.
Here is a sample (click there if you want to d/l the adobe file):

In British Columbia and throughout the world, forests are actively managed. The
management strategies used alter the natural ‘make-up’ of forested ecosystems changing the natural composition and structure of the forest. Forest management may alter tree species composition and size, and the amount of dead standing and fallen trees. These changes can affect the abundance of wildlife trees, ultimately affecting the species richness of terrestrial vertebrates and invertebrates (Steeger et. al. 1993; Lofroth 1998; Fridman 2000; Johnson and Freedman 2002).

These changes in species richness are prevalent in European forests that have been under active management for multiple harvesting rotations. It has been suggested that the systematic removal of old trees and deadwood from European forests has significantly contributed to the forty percent of forest dwelling species that are threatened or in danger of extinction (Bretz Guby and Dobbertin 1996; Fridman 2000).

Here in North America we are in the ‘early stages’ of realizing the implications of our management practices in the resulting ‘second growth forests’. In order to avoid experiencing the same results as seen in European forests, managers are altering their strategies, and in some cases trying to artificially reproduce
trees with ‘critical features’ in order to provide appropriate habitat. One study, (Lewis 1998) completed in the Pacific Northwest, that summarises the artificial re-creation of wildlife trees indicates costs from $20 to $50 per tree, using techniques that included explosives, girdling, and modification using a chainsaw. We may be able to avoid this loss of forest habitat and subsequent costs incurred to re-create it by increasing our knowledge of the habitat value of specific wildlife trees and how our management actions affect these trees.

Fascinating stuff. It may be a monster of an essay, but it really is worth your time. Go check it out, your mind will be expanded.

Take care Ben, hope to see you again someday.