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Subject:  Re: Study hopeful for world's forests Date:  12/22/2006  12:55 PM
Author:  Pituophis Number:  957 of 972

A new technique for measuring the state of the world's forests shows the future may not be as bad as previously feared.

I'm WAY behind on reading this board but I had to add my 2c to this thread (this is a specialty of mine).

Are the world's "forests" growing? Let me answer that with this example. Historically the US southeast from Virginia to eastern Texas was dominated by 92 million acres of longleaf pine forests. As a climax community, a longleaf pine forests is often referred to as a longleaf savannah - widely spaced mature pines with a grassy understory. The longleaf ecosystem is a hotbed of biodiversity, averaging something like 40 species per square meter.

Today, only 3% of the historical longleaf forest remains. Does that mean that these areas are now unforested deserts? That depends on how you define "unforested" (and it also depends on how you define "deserts"). When the old growth longleaf forests was finally and completely cut over by the 1910s, it was replanted with faster growing species, mainly loblolly and slash pine. These trees are planted close together in rows after the ground has been prepared and all "competing" species have been eliminated with herbicides. In a few years the closely spaced trees form a closed canopy, and few species can make a living in the dark understory - wildlife biologists commonly refer to young pine plantations as "pine deserts". At about the age of 30 or 40 the pines are cut down again and turned into pulp and the process starts over. THAT is the "forest" that stands today in the place where the longleaf forest stood.

Is there more biomass - yeah, probably. But, imo, they're not forests. It's just agriculture. But if you just measure biomass and CO2 then yeah, forests are expanding. I imagine you can extrapolate this scenario throughout the world.

So let's cut down the rest of the tropical rain forests and eliminate 10s of 1000s of species, and then replant them in one or two species like eucalyptus or chinese tallow that grow really fast and in a few years we can all pat ourselves on the back that the problem of shrinking forests has been fixed.

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