Fire/logging for stable forest ecosystem?

maugralp at cwis.isu.edu maugralp at cwis.isu.edu
Thu May 5 11:57:38 EST 1994


In article <1994May4.191630.7944 at news.brandonu.ca>,
 <neufeld at news.brandonu.ca> wrote:
>I have been trying to put a few ideas together about logging in
>British Columbia and would like some feedback from you.
>
>1. Selective logging can be detrimental to the forest gene pool.
>
Yes, if done improperly.

>When only the largest, straight, prime specimens are removed from a
>forest, the remaining trees either are genetically inferior members of
>a desirable species or members of a less desirable species. If this is
>correct, the optimum harvesting practice would seem to be small clear
>cuts.
>

The practice you describe is called "high-grading".  It is not practiced 
by responsible timber operators and is not allowed by the U.S. Forest 
Service (in theory at least).

>2. Preventing forest fires and logging in a forest leads to a buildup
>   of forest trash that can exacerbate the damage when a forest fire
>   eventually burns through an area.
>

The phrase "preventing forest fires and logging" is confusing.  Allowing 
forest fires is often a fine alternative to logging if maintenance of the 
eco-system is the only concern.

Logging can function as a partial substitute for forest fires -- a point
the timber industry makes sure we all remember, but they are not identical
in their effects.  Fires kill diseases and insect pests that logging
doesn't.  Fires release nutrients to the forest soils that logging
doesn't.  The exact differences and similaries vary from ecosystem to
ecosystem. 

>Some forest ecosystems, such as the longleaf pine - wiregrass
>ecosystem of the south-eastern US, are fire adapted and will not be
>sustained if forest fires are prevented (beech-magnolia takes over).
>Are the forests of BC similar?

The forests of B.C. vary widely.  The coastal forest is different from 
the forests of the interior wet zone.  Both are different from the dry 
forests of the Thompson Plateau (which are fire adapted).  The boreal 
forests of the north are different still.

>I remember reading that the forest
>fires that burned through Yellowstone a few years ago caused so much
>damage because of the trash buildup that resulted from preventing
>natural fires and logging in previous years.

They didn't cause very much damage.  Only 0.1% of the soil in the burned
areas was sterilized.  Fires of the magnitude of the 1988 fires burn
Yellowstone about every 300 years it appears from examining charcoal
layers in soil.  The fire suppression had lasted only about 80 years, so
it wasn't a long enough time to make much of a difference. 

Hundreds of millions of lodgepole pine seedlings have emerged in 
Yellowstone since the fire.  The future controversy, I predict, will be 
whether the new stands should be thinned because the regrowth is so 
dense.  

The Yellowstone National Park fire experience does not apply to some other
western U.S. forests, where fire supression has led to radical changes in
the composition and health of the forests.  Such an example is the Blue 
Mountains of NE Oregon.

>Are forest fires and or
>logging necessary to maintain a stable forest ecosystem in BC? Are
>there important differences in management practices of the coastal
>temperate rain forests and the drier interior regions?
>

Forest fires will do fine maintaining a stable forest ecosystem.  The 
forests didn't destroy themselves without logging before European 
settlement of B.C.

Your question should be: "to what degree is logging an adequate substitute
for natural forest fires?"  Which forest ecosystems can be maintained 
with logging?  If they can, what practices are necessary?  Which should 
be avoided?

>Thanks in advance for your interest, ideas and feedback.
>
>
>Gerry Neufeld, Brandon University, Brandon, MB, Canada
>
>neufeld at brandonu.ca


-- 
Ralph Maughan
Pocatello, Idaho



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