Wednesday, 28 July 2010

What's wrong with forestry today?

I took these photo's today, close to where I live and it is an absolutely typical example of the type of forestry that is practiced around here and in so many other places too. This piece of woodland was a very prominent landscape feature and now it has been felled it is even more eye catching to the many thousands who drive past it each day.

From counting the growth rings this wood represents over 70 years of growth since it's last clear felling. It appears to have been completely unmanaged and by consequence has grown into a low quality, low value crop with virtually all the timber being sent to the local pulp mill where it has a value of around 19 euros per ton. An entire human lifespan to produce an almost valueless product. But it didn't have to be that way. Just a little bit of periodic management to thin the overcrowded trees and remove those of poor form would have concentrated the growth potential in the remaining better trees, which could of then grown on to be of a high enough quality for saw milling and be worth 10 to 20 (or even more) times as much. Still taking the same 70 years to grow and mature.

Large areas of woodland should never be clear felled. A forest is a living entity that modifies the soil it grows in, moderates temperature extremes, reduces windspeeed, increases humidity, greatly reduces rainfall runoff and many many other additional beneficial factors as well. When it is felled, in a moment all this is lost. It becomes a micro climate of extremes. Today it was baking hot and it was as if the whole site had been sterilised. There was not a bird, beetle,bug or animal of any kind, absolutely devoid of all life. You could then step from this into the part of the woodland which still remains (for the time being). It was like walking through a door from one room to another - totally different in every way. There surely has to be a better way than this to manage our forests.

So what is the future for this wood? Well as long as it is not cleared for housing or agriculture it will eventually recover. Already some of the cut stumps were showing signs of life. The regrowth is surprisingly quick. The sweet chestnut can grow up to 3 metres in the first year here after being felled. Although this soon slows down, within about 20 years it will look like a wood again. Without management it will soon once again become overcrowded, dark and spindly and slowly as the years roll on, edge ever closer to its next brutal low value clear fell

No comments:

Post a Comment