April 15th, 2011
I grew up in the woods – being surrounded by trees always seemed natural to me. It was not until I got older that I realized not many people live in, or even near, a forest. The forest near my home is expansive, but relatively young. Signs of human interference are obvious by the miles of stone-wall tracing old boundaries through the woods. The area was once cleared for farming, and all of the trees are mostly young pines, probably between 50 and 100 years old. Pines grow very quickly compared to most native species and can grow easily in sandier soil. The youth of the woods creates a unique habitat, where gaps are filling in, and random thickets of young trees compete. Its sad to think that the forest will probably never be able to reach its ultimate stage again before being cleared again for development.
Old growth forests are particularly special places – and they are dwindling around the world. Occasionally in my young forest there will be a massive giant – obviously left by the farmers. I imagine what it would be like if the forest were composed of all giants like this and how amazing it would look. Old growth forests are extremely rich in diversity – becoming home to many varieties of plants and animals. They also serve as a type of ‘safe haven’ for certain species that cannot survive in younger forests. Many rare and endangered species rely on old growth forests for their habitat, such as the Northern spotted owl. The arrival of European settlers in the U.S. destroyed nearly all of the country’s original old growth forest – very similar to Europe itself.
While there are still areas of old-growth throughout the world, many are fragmented. Forest resilience and diversity truly depends on how intact the forest is – meaning how much area it covers without any unnatural disturbance. Only about 23% of all forests today are considered ‘intact’. Canada still contains a considerable amount of intact forest and is also home to some truly stunning old growth forests.
We should pay attention to the preservation of all types of forest and not just focus entirely on the Tropical Rainforest. Each forest is special and home to unique species. Maintaining our forests is extremely important to maintaining biodiversity around the world.