Tightening up the definitions    Robert Leverett
   Mar 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.

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