Does Nature Know Best?

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Sat Jan 10 19:01:41 EST 1998

In article <34AFE874.29AB at>,
  dstaples at wrote:
> dwheeler at wrote:
> >
> > 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
> > mature.
> We foresters not providing cultivated mycorrhizal fungi must account for
> the desertifaction of the south east, north east, mid-north, etc.  I see
> no reason to try to grow or "provide"  that which is so abundant in
> nature, i.e., mycorrhizal fungi.  I can see where propagation in sterile
> soils in a green house may not provide the necessary fungi, but they
> will be in the soils when planted, unless totally off site (arctic?)

Not "provide"ing  mycorrhizal results in desertification. So how many
species of mycorrhizae have you cultivated?

> >
> > 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?
> Same as above.
> >
> > 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?
> >
> Same as above, soil fungi are there, in the soil, from adjaceant or
> previous stands.  We take no effort to sterilize the soil prior to
> planting. And, I seem to remember, most mycorrhizal fungi are air
> vectored.

If your thesis were true, there would be no deserts today. Unfortunately,
the history of mankind has proven otherwise. The deserts of the world
continue to + increase+, not decrease. Many mycorrhizal fungi die upon
direct exposure to ultraviolet light, according to Dr. William Dennison,
past president of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association. Perhaps the
fastest way to kill most of these mycorrhizal fungi is to clearcut. In
Oregon at least, clearcutting also results in large amounts of dead woody
debris. This material is ideal for growing several species of root-rot
fungi. The main difference between forestry east of the Mississippi for
forestry west of the Cascade Mountains is the number and size of
evergreens per acre. Hardwoods have different mycorrhizal requirements,
which have not been assessed as yet.

> > 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.
> And what source so readily treated each new seedling with fungi since
> the Devonian?  Agreed, you cant have one with out the other, but reverse
> it and see if it is still true.  Can you have fungi without trees?
> Works for me.

If you are growing your trees in a greenhouse, fungi-less trees are fine.
In nature there are not regular watering regimens. Fungi in nature gather
water and transport it to the trees.

> If your speaking of a particular fungi with a fruiting body particularly
> attractive to one culture or creature, then you are correct, I have no
> interest in the research, use or cultivation of same.  It's not
> necessary nor of value in my area.  And the mycorrhizae are beneath my
> feet, every day, every where I go.  Why carry coals to New Castle?
> I could as much ignore the sun and rain as the fungi, but I cannot
> change, modify, or be concerned about the absense or presence of any of
> the three from my lands.  Forrest Gump is the most current originater of
> the saying "''it happens".

Forrest Gump is also noted for another quote. But seriously, thank's for
posting your opinons. :)

Daniel B. Wheeler

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