Friday, April 4, 2008

New value for old forests

IPS: Newly sensitised to the dangers of climate change, researchers around the world are making progress in helping to protect old growth forests that are threatened by fires, urban development and logging. This week the International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) published a scientific summary of the ‘Old Forests, New Management’ international conference, held February, in Hobart, Tasmania, that is expected to influence current thought and policy worldwide.

IUFRO, which networks more than 15,000 forest scientists in almost 700 member organisations in over 110 countries, co-hosted the Hobart conference along with the Cooperative Research Centre for Forestry, Tasmania.

"Old growth" forests have different connotations in different countries. In parts of North America, it may mean the open forests of Ponderosa pine that were fire-managed by the native Americans. In Europe, it may mean the great oak forests that were planted in the middle ages to feed pigs and to supply timber for ships. In Australia, it may refer to forests that have been undisturbed by human activity for long periods. But issues and responses to silviculture and management of old growth forests have many similarities across Australia, Europe, North and South America, according to several participating forest scientists contacted by IPS.

"We are making good progress in the United States and Australia in recognising the non-timber values of old growth, defining old growth, finding ways to protect existing old stands and developing new silvicultural systems that can retain or create biodiversity in managed forests," said Tom Spies of the United States Forest Service. "However there's been much less progress at reaching social consensus on how much to protect and how to move from forest economies dependent on old-growth to ones based on sustainable management of native and non-native forests," added Spies, a scientist long familiar with old growth forests and the public debates surrounding them….

Forest in Bangladesh, USAID, Wikimedia Commons

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