Forests are pretty cool – sitchensis – Mar 09

hi lf my name is sitchensis and my only other claim to fame on an internet forum is making a thread about cities and suburbs that eventually turned into a discussion about how much the space needle in seattle sucks. so now im gonna post a thread about forests and forestry so you can all get some environmental cred and because forests are pretty cool

Oh god it’s the fucking truth. If you are looking for a profession that feels like juggling twenty flaming chainsaws while simultaneously driving a schoolbus full of kids down a winding mountain pass in the middle of a snowstorm while their fucking parents shout at you from a cellphone about how you’re doing everything wrong then FORESTRY MIGHT JUST BE THE CAREER CHOICE FOR YOU!!

But maybe I’m overstating things a bit.

No, wait, I’m not.

Anyways, I love forests and forestry. It’s really neat stuff that combines all the best parts of environmental sciences, hands on in the field work, public relations, political manouvering, economics, engineering, land management, water resources, trucks, and filling out tedious little cards about trees.

I made this thread so that people could maybe get a bit more knowledge about what a forest is, some current issues in forestry, how everything is invariably going to get fucked up by climate change, what you can do yourself to protect forests, and how if you knock your girlfriend up on a camping trip in the pacific northwest what berries you need to pick to induce an abortion.

FIRST SOME DEFINITIONS

I am going to use these words throughout the posts I make so you better goddamn well know what they mean. I should remind you that I am drastically simplifying things so your little minds can comprehend what is going on. It took me four years of school to even get a basic grasp of what the fuck is going on in forestry, and I am facing two more years of field work to get certified so I can -officially- say what the fuck is going on.

Anyways:

SILVICULTURE
It’s like agriculture, except with trees. SO whenever you see the word ‘SILVICULTURE’ just think the Green Giant planting some maples and then shitting on them for fertilization or something.

STAND
Oh fuck this one is kind of hard to wrap your head around. OK, so a stand is a community of plants (i.e. trees) that is composed of the same species of the same age with the same ecological conditions. Picture yourself in a forest and one minute you are in a bunch of young broadleaf trees and then the next you walk into a bunch of old conifers. Congratulations! You have identified two stands of trees! It gets ridiculously more difficult to identify anything more complex than that so I won’t bother!

BIOGEOCLIMATIC ZONE (BGZ)
This one is specific to the area I’m in, but I’m sure other (i.e. non-third world countries) have a similar system. Basically, a BGZ zone divides a geographic area based on whether it shares similar BIOLOGICAL communities that are associated with similar GEOGRAPHIC regions that experience similar CLIMATIC CONDITIONS. Got it? No, I didn’t think so.

OK. So it’s like, you have a mall. The mall has been set up so that all the old people go to one end because there are old people stores. Adults shop in the middle because there’s a Best Buy. Kids go to the other end because there’s a Toys’R’Us. You would then break down the mall into areas where the men of those groups would usually go (let’s say for the old guys its LL Bean) and then you would break that area down further into where the old white men would usually go in that store (boating shoe section). That’s pretty much what a BGZ is, except with plants and climates and shit.

Where I live there are 14 of these zones. They are then stratified further into units that are based on the area being dry/wet and hot/cold. It’s horribly complex and awfully useful and once you get the hang of it you find a certain scientific beauty!

STRATIFY/STRATIFIED
Divide and conquer. Make into layers. Split in half. You really should know this.

SITE PRODUCTIVITY
The ability of a site (think of a ‘site’ like a construction site) to produce a healthy crop of trees. This is a really bad thing to compromise!

DISTURBANCE EVENT
Anything that would cause a “gap” in the forest canopy. So a windstorm that causes a tree to fall down, or a big forest fire, or some yahoo in his underwear with a bottle of jack daniels and a chainsaw.

SERAL STAGE
Fuuuuck. Ok, so this one is just going to go into the section below. I’m tired of writing definitions.

DUHH WHAT IS A FOREST?
A forest is a plant community that is the result of a complex interaction of vegetation, animals, climate, decomposing organic material, microorganisms, fungus, soils, and whole bunch of other shit. While a forest is immensely complex with processes layered upon processes that feed off a matrix of other processes, it’s life cycle can be generalized to some extent.

Basically forests, like people, are constantly changing and are in a state of fluctuation.

What may seem like a static forested landscape to you is actually teeming with life and change (and hope). Forests have lifespans just like human beings — they are born, go through messy puberty, hit adulthood, grow old and then die a gruesome death. Unlike human beings (despite what christians tell you), forests will continue this cycle for eternity because they are evolutionarily adapted to doing it. It just takes a fucking long ass time.

So lets say you have a disturbance event like a forest fire. Afterwards, the trees are dead. “Pioneer Plants” then move in to colonize the site because they are advantageous fucks like that. Soon they grow big and strong until they create the conditions necessary for another plant community to move in and take up growing space, outcompeting the originals. That plant community, over time, creates the conditions necessary for another plant community to move in and start competing, and so on and so forth until you have big-ass tress growing everywhere and hippies chaining themselves to them. Then another forest fire comes along and burns everything to death including the hippies because they forgot the keys to the handcuffs and the loggers were not feeling sympathetic.

A pioneer plant community. FUCK YOU FIREWEED.

Each plant community would, in general, have specific ecological qualities and demands that you can use to stratify the timeline into ‘Seral stages’ (SERAL — like SERIES). It’s like a prince succeeding a king when he dies, which is probably why it’s called the process of SUCCESSION. Early seral stages are composed of those advantageous fucks of pioneer plants; “late” or “climax” seral stages are typified by the plant community that dominates the site in perpetuity until another disturbance event comes along.

SOME CURRENT ISSUES IN FORESTRY

CLIMATE CHANGE

Ohhh boy, this is -the- big one. That whole “Biogeoclimatic Zone” classification thing I outlined above? The beautiful system of classification that has taken decades to refine?

Well, because of climate change, it is basically going to be irrelevant in twenty years because every fucking ecosystem will now have the potential to support a different set of plant communities. Added onto that is the fact that we don’t exactly -know- what the temperature will end up being once everything is all said and done.

Furthermore, trees and forests have evolved over tens of thousands of years to flourish in specific ecological conditions that barely change over the course of 1000 years.

For example, although you could theoretically plant a cedar tree from the coast into an area that was further up a mountain and a few degrees north in latitude, chances are it will die… even though the exact same species lives in both locations. With climate change, we are most likely going to see trees getting stressed out to the max because they can’t deal with higher temperatures, or less rainfall, or more rainfall, or heavier snowpacks, or less snowpacks– you see where I’m going with this?

Anyways, theories on how to handle this range from introducing species that are already adapted to the climate conditons we “expect” we’ll be facing, or extensive tree-breeding programs to make trees hardier and better adapted to future climates and then plant the fuck out of those trees.

The one teeny weeny little thing about all of that is that THE FORESTS THAT ARE ALREADY HERE ARE GOING TO BE FUCKED.

I’ll let that sink in a bit.

“Abloo bloo bloo”, you cry mockingly, “so what? we will have tons of shit to log!” Yeah, see, the other thing is that the forests that we are growing right now that were harvested a few decades ago are most likely going to be dead. When you have staked your companies future on the fact that the forest you planted will grow up to be big and strong, and then it doesn’t, things kind of suck.

Anyways this whole thing could be made into a thread of its own and its really depressing stuff so I’m gonna stop here.

MOUNTAIN PINE BEETLE

No wait! I’m not!

Mountain Pine Beetle is natural to Canada. It’s been wreaking havoc for the past eight or nine years because it’s gone absoloutely apeshit. It has decimated pine forests in British Columbia, turning verdant green landscapes into red oceans of dead trees. It’s the largest natural disaster to ever hit Canada, and is one of the primary reasons why we are a huge source of carbon –it’s because a lot of our forests are dying!

The beetle -loves- old pine trees. Because policy in British Columbia has been centered around fighting every single fucking forest fire there is, we have a lot of old pine trees hanging around that would have otherwise died naturally through fire. The beetle has spread like crazy because of our efforts to stop the ugly plumes of smoke ruining people’s views in Kelowna.

So now their views will be ruined by a bug chewing its way through the trees!

Usually the mountain pine beetle is kept in check by cold winters that literally freeze it to death. BUT HEY GUESS WHAT HAPPENS WITH CLIMATE CHANGE!!!

Long story short: it’s predicted that as things warm up, the beetle will spread. This is a big problem because once it hops over the Rockies and starts to linger in Alberta, well, it will have access to the largest expanse of forest on earth: The Boreal Forest.

Ahaha, if you thought clearcuts were bad… man, just wait for this to happen.

WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE SALMON!!!!

Some species of Salmon in B.C. are basically going to become extinct within a few decades. That’s what I heard from a biologist who’s been around for a long time and gave me this really grim “are you sure you want to be in this field” look afterwards.

Anyways, a big reason for this is forest logging roads. Fun fact: usually it’s not the denudation of vegetation that causes the most harm in a forest ecosystem, it’s the resulting erosion and water issues caused by roads constructed to access the timber. Basically, around 78,000 culverts (metal pipes placed within the roads at areas where water flows across the landscape) across BC are preventing salmon from swimming upstream to spawn or just chill out for a winter because these culverts were installed incorrectly in the past (i.e. before 1995) and are inaccessible to fish.

I think it would make for a kickass publics works project to hire a bunch of guys to fix these things now that we are in the Great Depression 2: Depressioner, but hey I guess people are more inclined to save banks and mortgages than a species of fish that has BEEN AROUND FOR FUCKING MILLIONS OF YEARS AND IS ACTUALLY PRETTY FUCKING IMPORTANT.

Annnnd there are other things too, like clearcuts on south facing slopes might be causing runoff water to warm up streams which screw up all the little salmoids into thinking it’s later than it actually is so they develop faster which fucks them up when they try and move downstream or go into the ocean; or maybe people are just overfishing; or it could be all the pollutants and runoff; but it’s probably all of that shit combined.

Oh yeah and speaking of warm streams affecting salmon GUESS WHAT HAPPENS WITH CLIMATE CHANGE!!!

LOGGING IS FINE TO DO YOU GODDAMN HIPPY FUCKS SO STOP THROWING SHIT AT ME

OK. Look. No one likes to see a clear-cut. No one likes to see a forest without trees. However, the world needs wood, and although the system is NOT perfect at all yet, we are working on it!

British Columbia has the best forestry practices in the world. OK, so yes, there is still a bit of corruption here and there, and the fact is that the professional organization I’ll be joining (the organization which ensures that the people within it practice good forestry) has about 5400 members and does maybe 10 audits a year, so that doesn’t help. BUT OVERALL IT’S PRETTY GOOD.

Forestry has come a long way in this part of the world from simply going out to cut down the biggest trees and then raking in the cash afterwards, to advanced ecosystem management in sensitive areas. We are on the forefront of forest conservation and economics so please stop chaining yourselves to things, you just embarrass the people who are actually trying to make a difference.

CLEARCUTS, IF DONE CORRECTLY, ARE ACTUALLY GOOD

Oh god, the problem with this is that people who don’t know jack shit are usually taken as authority on the subject because it’s pretty easy to be charismatic and yell “DON’T LOG ME BRO” or something and get your point across, while those who actually know stuff don’t have any quick soundbites to encapsulate what takes years of study and fieldwork to actually decipher. It’s a lot easier to rage against something than it is to understand it.

Anyways, most forest ecosystems in my neck of the woods actually respond really well to clearcuts. Forest management these days is all about not degrading site productivity, so we try and harvest forests in ways that are similar to the natural disturbance events that would occur if people weren’t around. For the majority of forests, this means bigass forest fires that take everything out and clearcuts simulate this same thing!

So lets say you are walking in the woods and you scratch yourself, “Oh no! I have a scratch!”, a few days later it heals up and turns into new skin and you feel fine. Then lets say you are chained in a basement after being drugged at a bar or something and your captor decides to make a big dramatic show of scratching your arm with a knife, “OH GOD PLEASE DON’T KILL ME I HAVE VALUABLE THREADS TO POST ON AN INTERNET FORUM” you plead, but he scratches you anyway. Surprise! Your body reacts the same way as it did if you were scratched by a branch!

Forests work the same way.

Imagine four forests on the edge of a cliff. Say a direct copy of the forest nearest the cliff is sent to the back of the line of forests and takes the place of the first forest. The formerly first forest becomes the second, the second becomes the third, and the fourth gets logged illegally.

ALSO since you need fewer road networks to get into a clearcut, you reduce the potential damage to streams! And it is written in law that every stream have a big buffer zone around it that you can’t log! And that around that zone there should be a zone to make sure the buffer zone doesn’t get damaged! It’s awesome!

Of course clearcuts aren’t always the answer, and there’s a ton of variation you can have with them. It’s up to the forester (that’s me! eventually!) to make informed, scientific, economical decisions that ensure that nothing gets damaged and that my employer still sees a nice pretty penny at the end of the day

Doing otherwise could net me gigantic fines and jailtime so you bet your fucking ass I do my job! I also have a big green streak in me so I don’t really want to fuck things up for everyone else (even moreso than they already are).

TELL ME COOL STUFF ABOUT FORESTS BECAUSE I AM A PETULANT CHILD THAT MUST BE ENTERTAINED AND SO FAR YOU HAVE ONLY BEEN DEPRESSING AS FUCK YOU GODDAMN HOMO

WHITEBARK PINE

Contrary to popular belief, some of the oldest trees in the world are often very very tiny. A good example is the whitebark pine that grows in high subalpine elevations. These short trees can be hundreds of years old and less than 5 metres high. Over time it has evolved a relationship with the hilariously named Clark’s Nutcracker bird, which eats Whitebark Pine seeds and then disperses them. This is basically how the pine reproduces, and without the bird it would cease to exist. Likewise, the bird relies on caches of Whitebark Pine seed to survive through the winter, so if the tree goes so does the bird.

Both are endangered, but there’s a big conservation push on right now to protect them and it’s awesome.

I READ THROUGH THIS WHOLE POST JUST TO FIND OUT HOW TO SECRETLY TERMINATE MY/MY GIRLFRIEND’S PREGNANCY IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

Find a tree that looks like that (The Western Yew – Taxus brevifolia)

Get the berries that look like that.

Grind them into a paste (not too many though… like 3 or 4) and then mix them into a drink. Get the pregnant girl to drink it and bingo! you have just induced an abortion the natural way.

Indigenous people used to use it for that purpose. Now you know!

PUTTING SPIKES IN TREES DOESN’T REALLY DO ANYTHING

From what I know, only one faller has ever been injured by a spike in the tree — usually it just jams the chainsaw. The real damage is when a spike goes through the sawmill, as it can badly damage the sawblades. It’s inconvenient, but you aren’t blinding anyone, and if you go out there to do that specifically you should know that it doesn’t work and you are a horrible person.

THERE IS MORE COOL STUFF BUT IT’S LATE AND I’VE WORKED ON THIS POST FOR WAY TOO LONG

SO WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTEXT THE FORESTS‽‽‽

(deep breath)
R-E-C-Y-C-L-E RECYCLE!

C-O-N-S-E-R-V-E CONSERVE!

DON’T YOU P-O-L-L-U-T-E POLLUTE THE RIVERS SKY OR SEA!

Or else we’re gonna get what we deserve!

Conservation and helping forests out can be as simple as picking up trash you see in the park or when you are on a hike! Try to purchase paper products that are made in Canada or the United States (such as the company Quebecor). If you’re ever purchasing wood for a project, make sure you know where it’s coming from. Canada has really good sustainable forestry practices, but a lot of other places don’t. Like a lot of things when it comes to Capitalism, it isn’t cheap to buy the stuff that is earth friendly. It’s up to you to know where your paper and wood products are coming from!

If you really want to help out our forests, the best thing you can do is minimize your carbon footprint. For fucks sake ride a bike or grow a vegetable garden or lobby someone because by far Climate Change, not logging, is going to be the biggest thing that will fuck up forests for hundreds of years to come. Seriously, I mean, the deforestation of the Amazon is a big deal, but if the choice is to donate money to a group that aims to save the Amazon or donate money to a group that is actively lobbying for stricter controls on carbon emissions, go for the carbon emission guys. If we get this global warming thing under control THEN we can worry about more direct causes of deforestation.

PROTESTING WORKS! OK, so I raged against hippies pretty hard in this post, but believe it or not the fact that B.C. has very good sustainable forestry is directly because of the big the protests held by organizations such as GreenPeace during the early 1990’s when a big old growth forest in Clayoquot Sound was about to be logged. Through their protests they effectively managed to put the international spotlight on B.C. and caused a lot of bad press for forestry here.

Clayoquot is now a designated UNESCO world heritage site. The protests also caused the leftist NDP provincial government to completely overhaul forest practices and implement one of the most comprehensive, science based forest legislation and codes on the planet. Logging still occurs in and around Clayoquot, but due to its UN designation there are very, very strict requirements that must be adhered to before anyone even thinks about cutting down a tree.

Moral: Learn about the forests in your area! What’s happening to them? How are they used? What are the big issues? My biggest pet peeve is when people talk out of their ass about some nebulous ‘the forests are SACRED!! WE MUST SAVE ALL OF THEM!!’ sort of bullshit. If you want to make sure your resources are protected, you must learn the science behind them and how they tick. Some of it is obvious (don’t push tons of silt into streams), some requires professional input (which is where a science degree comes in), but it’s a good idea to get a basic understanding of how things work and what the issues are so that when the time does come to chain yourself to a tree trunk or lie in front of a bulldozer, you can at least provide some science and reasoning behind it!

Finally, GO FOR A HIKE! Seriously, you never really appreciate the beauty and complexity of nature through video or pictures. I am consistently awed at the natural world wherever I go, and I feel extremely lucky as a human being that I get to see the kind of places I’ve seen, and that I get to provide input and direction on how they will be managed so that successive generations can enjoy their benefits the way I do

ANYWAYS

Chat about forests here! Mind you my perspective when it comes to international forestry is somewhat limited, as I’m already overwhelmed as it is with the forests of British Columbia. However, I’d be happy to answer questions and read whatever you guys might know about forests/forestry/forest issues/abortion trees that might be in your part of the world!

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