Clearcuts & sustainability

Susan Gordanier sgordan at
Tue Oct 20 21:34:42 EST 1998

In <Pine.GSO.4.02A.9810201641410.7813-100000 at>, "Theodore M. Seeber" <seebert at> writes:
>On 19 Oct 1998, Susan Gordanier wrote:
>> Why then in a natural forest, thick canopy and all, do 
>> young firs grow on motherlogs?
>Because they aren't "young firs", they are the branches of the motherlog
>struggling to survive.

Sorry, Ted. Mine was a rhetorical question meant to point out 
a common myth bandied about. But since you bit, here's some 

A motherlog is a downed tree. Dead. Rotting. Seeds land on it, 
take root and are nourished as the motherlog decomposes.

If you spend time hiking you can learn to read a forest's 
history. You can see old trees perfectly aligned. They grew up
on the same motherlog, hundreds of years ago. In another 
type, you'll see an old fir whose trunk starts up in the air. 
In this case the seedling took root on a decaying stump, which 
over the course of time completely disappeared leaving the 
next generation seeminly suspended.

So... firs do grow in shade. That's why a douglas fir forest is 
a *climax* forest. We don't see that term referenced much 
any more because it begs to differ with the clearcut dictum  
that fir seedlings need direct sunlight. 

On the contrary, blackberries, etc need strong light. Hence 
the reliance on herbicides by treefarms. If nature were left to 
restore the land, a natural progression would occur: The 
berries and other shrubs would grow; alder and other fast-
growing trees would move in next; then later the firs as 
the final stage of the progression.


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