Does Nature Know Best?

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Sun Jan 4 13:21:34 EST 1998

In article <19980104051001.AAA07374 at>,
  forestfair at (ForestFair) wrote:
> McKenney" <d_mckenney at> said:
> "Much of the environmental debate taking  place today involves people speaking
> from a fact or science based background to others for whom environmental
> activism is more in the realm of a religious activity. This makes for generally
> heated discussion without much light. One group believes that science can be
> used to grow and harvest trees while the other group is worshipping the same
> trees."
> Important ideas, and very well said!
> ForestFair

I regret to burst the bubble, but I am unconvinced that foresters know
how to grow trees. Most trees in the US require mycorrhizal fungi to
survive outside of greenhouse environments. These fungi act as water and
nutrient gatherers. Studies at Oregon State University have shown that
terrestrial rooted Western hemlock are 100% mycorrhizal-inoculated in the
wild. Close observation of trees at a Douglas fir tree farm near Oregon
City strongly suggests as succession of mycorrhizal fungi as trees

Growing trees (forestry) implies providing trees with necessary
requirements for their cultivation. So how many species of the several
thousand mycorrhizal fungi known in the US do foresters know how to grow?
Of these, how many are used to grow seedling trees?

Many mycorrhizal fungi are dispersed by animal vectors (See Key to Spores
of the Genera of Hypogeous Fungi of North temperate Forests with special
reference to animal mycophagy by Michael A. Castellano, James M. Trappe,
Zane Maser & Chris Maser, c 1989, Mad River Press, Eureka, CA 95501). How
are forestry or tree farms providing for these animals in habitat and/or
foot requirements?

This necessary fungal/plant relationship has been a requirement for
growing almost all plants since the Devonian (Age of Fishes) time 400
million years ago. That foresters in general disregard mycorrhizae as
+beneath them+ is as dramatic a statement as saying they can't see the
forests for the trees. According to The Primary Source, trees make up
30-35% of biomass of either forest or plantation. Fungi make up 52-55%.
Ignoring fungi in tree cultivation/forestry is similar to corn-stalks
while growing corn: at this time, you can't have one without the other.

Daniel B. Wheeler

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