Foresters Called In After A Disturbance Event Such As This Often Suggest “Salvage Logging.” The Big Trees Are Very Valuable And Now Very Dead, They Reason, So Why Not Pull Them Out And Sell Them? In Financial Terms This Makes Sense, But Not In Ecological Terms. The Fallen Trees Contain A Concentrated Store Of Nutrients That Will Be Used By A Multitude Of Organisms, Such As Fungi, Worms, Insects, Algae, And Bacteria, If The Trees Are Left On The Ground.
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Those Organisms Will Become Food For Small Mammals, Amphibians, Reptiles, And Insects. After The Nutrients Pass Through Those Organisms, They Are Available To Plants, So The Fallen Trees Are Indirectly Feeding New Trees. The Fallen Logs Shade And Protect Seedlings Lucky Enough To Spring Up Near Them And Nurse Seeds That Land On Them. The Rotted Wood Eventually Becomes Moisture- Holding Soil, Which Ensures A Future Healthy Forest. Salvaging The Fallen Trees Interrupts These Natural Patterns. Fortunately, Ecologists Working For The Nature Conservancy Were Aware Of All This And Decided The Fallen Trees Should Stay In The Cathedral Pines Forest.
Writer Michael Pollan (Author Of Botany Of Desire And Omnivore’S Dilemma) Lived Very Close To Cathedral Pines When The Blowdown Happened. In His 1991 Blog Second Nature, He Discussed The Community’S Response In Detail. Almost No One, Including Pollan, Agreed With The Nature Conservancy’S Decision To Leave The Trees. He Argued That The Forest Wasn’T A True Wilderness Anyway Because Of Fire Suppression, Evidence Of Early Logging, Air Pollution, And So On, So Why Not Treat It As A Garden Instead? He Feared That Nature Left To Her Own Devices Might Create An “Impoverished Weed Patch” Where The Giant Pines Used To Stand, And Suggested Restoring The Forest By Burning The Fallen Pines And Planting New Ones.
But As I Walked Through The Forest, I Was Glad It Was Owned By The Nature Conservancy, Not Pollan Or The Township. Restoration Is Appropriate For Places Where Human Actions Have Created Scars So Deep That It Is The Only Ethical Action. Restore, Please, The Places Where Mountains Were Torn Apart For Coal, Where The Land Was Covered For Decades By Toxic Asphalt, Or Where We Eliminated Or Poisoned The Soil. But Here, In This Place With Soil So Healthy It Springs Back Under Your Feet In This Place That, If Not Untouched By Humans, Is At Least One Of The Most Lightly Touched Here We Should Stay Out Of Nature’S Way.
In No Man’S Garden, Author Daniel Botkin Noted, “Three Great Questions Have Occupied Many Philosophers, Theologians, Poets, And Artists And, In Modern Times, Scientists: What Is The Character Of Nature Undisturbed By Human Influence? What Is The Influence Of Nature On People? What Is The Influence Of People On Nature?” We Have Few Answers To The First Two Questions.
Soon, Much Too Soon, I Was Out Of The Big, Old Trees And In A Forest Twenty Years Into Recovery From An Intense Storm. There Was More Sunlight In The Storm-Damaged Section. Many Dead Trees Lay Across The Ground, But Many Small Trees Were Growing Up Among Them. Walking In The Recovering Forest Was Not As Pleasant As Walking Through The Old Trees Still Standing, And I Was Disappointed I Never Got To See The Beautiful Grove It Was Before The Storm, But It Wasn’T Just The Patch Of Honeysuckle And Brambles Pollan Had Feared. The Forest Was Healing, And I Was Glad To Know That The Saplings I Saw Hadn’T Been Planted, Weeded, Or Fertilized Except By Nature’S Hand.