Friday, January 25, 2008

Forest management and Forest loss

Redwood tree in northern California redwood forest, where many redwood trees are managed for preservation and longevity, rather than harvest for wood production.
Coastal Douglas fir woodland in northwest Oregon.The scientific study of forest species and their interaction with the environment is referred to as forest ecology, while the management of forests is often referred to as forestry. Forest management has changed considerably over the last few centuries, with rapid changes from the 1980s onwards culminating in a practice now referred to as sustainable forest management. Forest ecologists concentrate on forest patterns and processes, usually with the aim of elucidating cause and effect relationships. Foresters who practice sustainable forest management focus on the integration of ecological, social and economic values, often in consultation with local communities and other stakeholders.

Anthropogenic factors that can affect forests include logging, human-caused forest fires, acid rain, and introduced species, among other things. There are also many natural factors that can also cause changes in forests over time including forest fires, insects, diseases, weather, competition between species, etc. In 1997, the World Resources Institute recorded that only 20% of the world's original forests remained in large intact tracts of undisturbed forest [4]. More than 75% of these intact forests lie in three countries - the Boreal forests of Russia and Canada and the rainforest of Brazil. In 2006 this information on intact forests was updated using latest available satellite imagery.

Canada has about 4,020,000 km² of forest land. More than 90% of forest land is publicly owned and about 50% of the total forest area is allocated for harvesting. These allocated areas are managed using the principles of sustainable forest management, which includes extensive consultation with local stakeholders. About eight percent of Canada’s forest is legally protected from resource development (Global Forest Watch Canada)(Natural Resources Canada). Much more forest land — about 40 percent of the total forest land base — is subject to varying degrees of protection through processes such as integrated land-use planning or defined management areas such as certified forests (Natural Resources Canada). By December 2006, over 1,237,000 square kilometres of forest land in Canada (about half the global total) had been certified as being sustainably managed (Canadian Sustainable Forestry Certification Coalition). Clearcutting is usually the harvest method of choice and companies are required by law to ensure that harvested areas are adequately regenerated. Most Canadian provinces have regulations limiting the size of clearcuts, although some older clearcuts can range upwards of 110 km² (20,000 acres) in size which were cut over several years.

In the United States, most forests have historically been affected by humans to some degree, though in recent years improved forestry practices has helped regulate or moderate large scale or severe impacts. However the United States Forest Service estimates that every year about 6,000 km² (1.5 million acres) of the nation’s 3,000,000 km² (750 million acres) of forest land is lost to urban sprawl and development. It is expected that the South alone will lose 80,000 to 100,000 km² (20 to 25 million acres) to development. However, in many areas of the United States, the area of forest is stable or increasing, particularly in many northern states.

Globally two broad types of forests can be identified: natural and anthropogenic[citation needed].

Natural forests contain mainly natural patterns of biodiversity in established seral patterns, and they contain mainly species native to the region and habitat. The natural formations and processes have not been affected by humans with a frequency or intensity to change the natural structure and components of the habitat.

Anthropogenic forests have been created by humans or sufficiently affected by humans to change or remove natural seral patterns. They often contain significant elements of species which were originally from other regions or habitats.