up the definitions
08, 2003 13:07 PST
This past Wednesday Gary Beluzo and I
gave a briefing to the Bureau of Forestry for the Commonwealth
on the old growth acreages that we are mapping for the state.
Gary had to leave immediately after the briefing. At lunch, the
subject of the old growth acreage on Mt Everett arose as a topic
of discussion between Dr. David Orwig of Harvard Forest, the
other guest speaker at the meeting, and myself. Dave and I are
in full agreement that we need a better classification system
for the old growth-quasi-old growth forested sites that hold our
interest. There needs to be appropriate distinctions made
between highly disturbed sites with some old growth
characteristics and those sites richest in characteristics for
the forest types.
A partnership is developing between
Dave, Dave's doctoral UMASS student, Tony D'Amato, Gary Beluzo,
and myself. The new partnership will replace the former one that
I had with Dr. Peter Dunwiddie and will add a solid research
capability to the continued identification and study of
important forested sites - a capability that was significantly
reduced after Peter left the area. Through Dave and Tony, future
tree age distributions for important sites will not be
approximate, but known to a high degre of accuracy.
The time is right to develop a more
accurate classification system for the various forest sites that
are being called old growth, mainly by myself as a consequence
of the work for DEM and the Eastern Old Growth Information
Clearinghouse run by Dr. Mary Byrd Davis. A couple of the sites
I have classified as old growth are probably more appropriately
classified as primary forest that incorporates some old growth.
Unknown site histories will always plague us and a general
knowledge of what was going on in the general area is
interesting and sometime useful, but can also be misleading.
Highly misleading. In truth, we'll never know the mix of
anthropogenic-initiated fire and natural fire that has shaped
the forests on such important sites as the south-facing side of
the Todd-Clark ridge in MTSF, but we can know a heck of a lot
more than we do now.
I am hoping that one outcome of our
partnership will be the clear identification of sites that have
been overwhelmingly shaped by natural processes over the last
150 years or longer. From this maybe we can derive an
"index of naturalness". As inexact as that may sound,
it is just what is needed for administration purposes.