Forest Health  

== 9 of 12 ==
Date: Tues, Nov 4 2008 2:24 pm
From: Lee Frelich


Here is my definition of forest health that you requested:

A forest is healthy as long as it maintains the productivity and species
richness (all taxonomic groups) of the pre-European settlement forest over


== 11 of 12 ==
Date: Tues, Nov 4 2008 3:40 pm
From: "Joseph Zorzin"


I'd like to suggest that the term "forest health" should be avoided- it's not a scientific concept. Proponents of different forest policies can all claim that their policies maintain productivity and species richness. Too often the debate stops there.

To solve the forestry debates, we need much clearer use of language and solid science and the recognition that forest policies are a combination of:

a.. biological and ecological science- the only fully rational and testable concepts which should have little debate
b.. economics- a social science, often derided by economists themselves as the "dismal science"- not a strong pillar in forestry debates because too many benefits and costs are not counted
c.. politics- because various forest policies will benefit some socio-economic classes and hurt others- the underlying politics is almost always avoided in polite discussions, thus greatly limiting the true value of those discussions
d.. aesthetics- because the decision to cut some trees/forests may or may not consider aesthetic values- such values are not correlated well with the other considerations and there is no right or wrong aesthetics
Forestry establishments often claim THEIR polices will lead to improved forest health without a sound case being made on those above issues. Based just on some vague sense of "productivity" and "species" richness, on some level they may be right- which may appear to support their policies which can not be supported on a fuller consideration of all relevant values.

Thus, I find the entire concept of "forest health" dubious and destructive regardless of who defines the term. Better to throw the term out and look deeper into the full range of considerations relevant to what we're trying to get at when we're thinking about "forest health".

Bob said, "While at Robinson, we talked about the distinction between forest health as seen through the eyes of the timber specialist versus the forest ecologist. Lee provided the group with a succinct definition of forest health that stressed balance and diversity. I will ask him to repeat his definition for the benefit of all Ents. Lee puts the subject of forest health into perspective, something the timber community cannot objectively do."

The ancient problem is that most "timber specialists" are trained to see the forest as a factory- while the forest ecologist abhors the idea of the forest as a factory. Whatever we think we mean when we think of forest health has got to be something that will make both sides unhappy because their vision will be seen as simplistic- the goal is to come up with a new term that is a superset of the concept of "forest health"- richer by orders of magnitude, in such a way as to obtain the goals of both sides- a fusion which must be found, but like nuclear fusion, a most difficult challenge.


Forestry videos: 
"A Tale of Two Clearcuts" 
"Uneven vs. Even aged silviculture"

Forest Guild Model Forest: 

== 3 of 19 ==
Date: Wed, Nov 5 2008 6:19 am
From: "Beluzo Gary A."


I appreciate your clear and concise definition and I would suggest an
amendment; that the definition explicitly include GENETIC DIVERSITY.
I know that genetic diversity is implicit in your definition but for
others this is often poorly understood and understated. There may be
species richness but without genetic diversity (species complexity)
how long could this be maintained into the future?


== 4 of 19 ==
Date: Wed, Nov 5 2008 7:02 am
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

The issue of genetic diversity raises the issue about "scale". If GD is a
goal, then at what scale? GD may not exist if looking at a small forest, but
if considering a county, it may be very good.

My questioning of the scientific validity of the concept continues until
there is a way to quantify "forest health". How healthy is any given forest,
at whatever scale? I'm not sure what Lee meant by "productive"- productive
in what way? Certainly "species richness" is also based on scale.

I have no idea how academia currently views this concept but I've seen too
much use of the term in ways that seem bogus. Perhaps more discussion can
result in developing a solid, scientific definition which will be useful for
research and management purposes.

I'd like to see the concept of "forest health" but without the term
"health"- which seems relevant to individual organism, not collections of
organisms. Life on Earth will survive no matter what we do- in that sense it
will always be healthy- if health has to do with survival. A new word is
needed to replace it.

Forestry videos: 
"A Tale of Two Clearcuts" 
"Uneven vs. Even aged silviculture"

== 5 of 19 ==
Date: Wed, Nov 5 2008 7:14 am
From: "Beluzo Gary A."


As long as there is a POPULATION there is genetic diversity unless we
are talking about a group of genetic clones. Even in a relatively
small stand there is genetic diversity, and through natural selection
the species evolves.

The question becomes how broad is the genetic diversity. As more
trees are cut (or die) in a stand, the genetic diversity dimishes
leaving behind a forest impoverished, less capable of resistance,
resilience, etc. to disturbances, whether they be natural or
artificial (anthropogenic).
Genetic Diversity is critical to the natural selection and therefore
evolution of a species; as the environment changes, the species can


== 6 of 19 ==
Date: Wed, Nov 5 2008 7:15 am
From: "Edward Frank"


I would tend to disagree with you. Simply because the forest industry has repeatedly mutilated the term forest health does not mean that the concept is invalid. Just because the concept is not easily quantifiable does not mean it is not a scientific concept. Not trying to define the idea of forest health in scientific terms, is simply ceding it to the forestry industry to use as they will. Forest health is an ecological concept. It is a scientific concept and better and clearer scientific definitions need to be developed to serve as a counterweight to forest industry arguments that practices like clear-cutting and high-grading promote forest health. To counter the idea that cutting old growth forests promotes forest health because younger forests may have a higher bird species diversity. These are my thoughts on the subject.

Ed Frank

== 7 of 19 ==
Date: Wed, Nov 5 2008 7:20 am
From: "Beluzo Gary A."

Given the attack on forests from all fronts, I believe the discussion
and appraisal of FOREST HEALTH is critical and necessary, although in
a totally autopoietic system it would be superfluous.


== 8 of 19 ==
Date: Wed, Nov 5 2008 9:00 am
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

Right, that's why I'm challenging people to come up with a solid,
scientific, quantifiable definition.


== 9 of 19 ==
Date: Wed, Nov 5 2008 12:49 pm


I agree that it is time for us to really define our terms. Next year, Gary and I will have another event in the Forest Summit Lecture Series. I propose that we devote it entirely to the topic of forest health to include all kinds of threats to the forest inlcuding poor forest practices. Finding the lecturers far enough ahead of time will be our task at hand.


== 10 of 19 ==
Date: Wed, Nov 5 2008 1:18 pm
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

Fantastic! It really is a key term. I suggest that as part of the program
you find some nearby woodlots to show people- which exemplify forest health
from excellent to very bad. Seeing what the term means will make it real.

PS: to me, the concept is an equation with many variables- each variable
must be quantifiable including values not yet in the marketplace- while
social and political values also plugged into the equation must be

== 12 of 19 ==
Date: Wed, Nov 5 2008 3:08 pm
From: Lee Frelich

Ed, Joe, Gary:

I agree with Ed that scientists should not necessarily reject a term
because it is abused by industry.

Regarding the amendment proposed about genetic diversity, yes we could add
that and also make the point that different baselines may be relevant (i.e.
other than pre-European settlement).


== 15 of 19 ==
Date: Wed, Nov 5 2008 5:49 pm
From: "Joseph Zorzin"

No, not necessarily, but when the term has a common every day use- as the
term "health" does- especially having to do with our own health, which has
to do with survival against the Grim Reaper- the images brought to mind can
easily make the term abusable, like "family values" has been abused by the
Republicans. Finding a new word for the concept, which will not carry so
much baggage, will help free the essential term we're really thinking about,
from that baggage. Health is a faulty descriptive word for ecosystems and
their components, not that I really care all that much, and not that anybody
would care what I think. But I'm convinced part of the reason the term is
abused is because it's not a good term to be used for a scientific concept.
But, I'll bow to the scientists in the audience if they can come up with
useful definitions of "forest health" that will succeed in defeating those
dark forces who misuse the term and who so far have won the battle. Such
victory will be the final proof. Go for it!


== 16 of 19 ==
Date: Wed, Nov 5 2008 6:02 pm
From: "Edward Frank"


Actually your point is well taken and I am interested in your opinions even if I don't agree. Some terms have become so embedded in our common usage that they may be inappropriate for use in a scientific context. Forest health I am sure is linked in our minds to our concepts of own health. The question to me really is, if the term is being used everyday, and being misused by some elements of the forest industry, should we devise a different term that won't be used to better fit the concept, or try to redefine the existing term, the term already in the public awareness to something that better fits the concept. I will acknowledge that perhaps the term forest health is not ideal because of the baggage of the term "health" in everyday use, but I think fixing it is a better path than making up a new term.


Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2008 19:16:43 -0800 From: dougbidlack

Ed and Joe,

I'm actually having fun reading what you both have to say.  Here is my definition of the difference between science and technology.  A scientist explores the universe by making observations and then formulating testable hypotheses based upon these observations.  These hypotheses are tested using tools such as tape measures, laser rangefinders and especially mathematics.  Technology is the practical application of science.  So an engineer may build a bridge using the same tools that the scientist used.  The difference between a scientist and an engineer is not the tools that they use, but it is in how they use them.


TOPIC: Forest Health

== 1 of 4 ==
Date: Wed, Nov 5 2008 5:21 pm
From: "Edward Frank"


Just because you can measure some aspect of a phenomena does not mean that you understand it. Just like being able to measure the height of a tree does not mean you understand everything about forest ecology. You can not ignore processes and characteristics simply because you do not know how to quantify them or how to fit them into your equation or model.

I am all for measuring things, trying to quantify things, and developing formulas and models, but there needs to a reality check with respect to how well they things actually represent the real-world

On a more specific point, I am not convinced that a single one-size-fits-all definition of forest health is practical or even advisable given the diverse nature of various forest ecosystems. If a simple quantifiable equation is developed, you know it will be misapplied to forests or situations where its application is not appropriate.

Ed Frank

TOPIC: Forest Health

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Thurs, Nov 6 2008 11:24 am

First, I wanted to say that Joe has brought up a point that is spurring a good discussion.

Like you, I disagree with him with regard to discontinuing it's (the concept of forest health) usage. I think that he's correct that the timber industry, and through guilt by association land management agencies (however accurate or inaccurate that is), have used it sufficiently in their own contexts that "Forest Health" has connotations not originally intended.
But I hope that we can 'define' it through continued usage in our own context.

Your use of the word "resilience" is a good start. To borrow the human health analogy, invalids may do well in the benign environment of a rest home, but a better measure of health and vigor might be our response to less benign environments, as demonstrated by our ability to 'weather' changes.

In fact, I rather like the analogy...I see great parallels between forest health and public health (probably a function of my immmediate environment, my better half has a Doctorate in Public Health...:>) as well as an individual human's health as compared to a single tree's health. And to take back another abused term, the environments that both trees and humans reside in could both be correctly referred to as ecosystems.

I spent two weeks in several forested ecosystems last month. I will soon report of some of the conditions and relationships I found in foxtail and bristlecone pine forests, and perhaps others.

One of the more empirical methods of measuring health in both humans and forests is their ability to attain "senior citizen status". Foxtail pines aged to 2,000 plus years and bristlecone pines attaining 4 thousand years of age, surely demonstrate resilience to the manifold changes in their environment (9,000 to 12,000 feet in elevation, high UV exposure, extreme temperature range, minimal soils, seasonally variable moisture).

== 2 of 2 ==
Date: Thurs, Nov 6 2008 3:15 pm
From: Lee Frelich


Sounds right to me, as a someone who is both a basic and applied scientist.