Trees - An Introduction to Trees and Forest Ecology for Amateur Naturalists by Laurence Walker - Book Review  

TOPIC: Book Review

== 1 of 5 ==
Date: Tues, Nov 13 2007 4:19 am
From: dbhguru

The discussions about old growth, management for OG characteristics, clearcuts, etc. got me to thinking about books in my library and what authors in them say about old growth, management for old growth characteristics, and clearcutting. One controversial book I own is entitled "Trees - An Introduction to Trees and Forest Ecology for Amateur Naturalists" by Dr. Laurence C. Walker, published by Prentice Hall in 1984. Walker is the Hunt Professor of Forestry (or was) at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas.

Walker is a silviculturist (as opposed to an ecologist) and write's his book from the standpoint of silviculture despite the book's title. If you are interested in how to regenerate a species for future timber purposes, Walker is your man. The chapters are organized around individual species. He covers some history, uses, species ecology, diseases, and how to foster their growth for commercial purposes. He covers the Douglas-fir; Longleaf Pine; Coast Redwood; LobLolly Pine; Bristlecone Pine; Eastern Redcedar; Giant Sequoia; Sand, Pond, Pitch, Jack, and Lodgepole Pines; Spruce and Fir; Junipers and Pinyon Pine; Baldcypress; White Pine; Monterey Pine; White-cedars and Junipers; American Chestnut; Osage-orange; Trembling Aspen;Willows; Black Walnut; Cottonwood; The Oaks; Black Locust; Live Oak; Ginkgo; The Northern Hardwoods; Bamboos and Palms. There is a lot of useful information in Walker's book, but as an introduction to forest ecology, the book fails.

In actuality, Walker's book is an unabashed promotion of forestry for every species, everywhere, and all the time. If he believes that some forests should be preserved, as opposed to being actively managed, he hides it. While Walker attempts to deal with the ecology of each species in terms of its growth requirements, his book falls woefully short of dealing with the ecology of whole forest and he cops an attitude throughout the book as well as revealing some surprising gaps in his basic forest understanding.For example, on page 45 he says " Clearcutting in contrast to high-grading imitates nature." he wrote this around 1984. Hopefully, he is now wiser. In terms of his silvicultural prowess, he has a few gaps. He states that management of Douglas-fir requires clearcutting. That has been demonstrated not to be the case by an old fellow out in Oregon or washington, I forget which, far less educated that Walker. In addition, Walker exhibits just plain ignorance about the behavior
of species at many points in his book. For instance, here is what he has to say about the Eastern Cottonwood. "Foresters consider the rotation age no more than 30 to 35 years; after this periodthe stand falls apart from disease and insect attack , leaving the forest to later arrivals if nature is unmolested. " I wonder what his reaction to Meeman-Shelby State Park would be? I routinely encounter areas of cottonwoods that have grown longer than 30 to 35 years. Had Walker said 60 years, I might have agreed with him. Even then, plenty of cottonwoods live to between 100 and 125 years and a few much older.

One point clearly in Walker's favor is that he understands the sin of highgrading. In this area, I give him high marks. Walker has published a number of books since. He is rather prolific as an author. Does anyone have this book or another by Walker?

== 5 of 5 ==
Date: Tues, Nov 13 2007 11:33 am

I just did a search on Walker, and it's clear that he came from an industrial forestry background [ ], which is consistent with my recall of fellow foresters from SFA, 'way back when'...;>}

TOPIC: Book Review

== 1 of 3 ==
Date: Tues, Nov 13 2007 1:46 pm
From: dbhguru


I thought as much. Throughout the book, Walker works hard selling plantation forestry. He also works hard at convincing readers that he is an expert on forests and that other scientists, e.g.botanists, are woefully ignorant of forests processes. In actuality, Walker has it backwards. He is the one with a deficit of forest knowledge.

Walker cites the situation where a scientist touted what he evidently thought was an old growth forest that needed protecing. But the forest wasn't old growth. In thinking it was, the fellow was keying off tree size. Walker did some forest forensics and proved the forest was in fact fairly yong regrowth from an old field. Walker dug into the soil and exposed an old plow line. Walker was quite proud of himself. However, Walker evidently didn't know how to recognize old growth characteristics in the particular species. Looking at plantation trees all the time, he apparently had not developed his interpretive skills for old growth characteristics.

Well, I've picked on the poor chap enough. I'll pass on to another topic.


== 2 of 3 ==
Date: Tues, Nov 13 2007 4:07 pm
From: Lee Frelich


One more jab at Walker--a lot of so-called 'plow lines', or AP horizons are
actually created by invasive earthworms, especially the genus Aporrectodea,
an endogeic genus from Europe that lives in the top 12-15 inches of soil
and thoroughly churns it. So, the scientist may have been right, it may
have been old growth.


== 3 of 3 ==
Date: Tues, Nov 13 2007 5:12 pm
From: dbhguru


Thanks for weighing in. The plow line that he would have been talking about would have been in the early 1980s. Does this change anything?