Even today, all over the world, towering ancient giants are still destroyed in order to produce inferior, transitory products in society. And even when they are not destroyed by human hands, other mysterious forces seem fade them away. In the pacific northwest, according to reseachers that presented at the Current Topics in Forest Health sponsored by the University of Idaho in mid December of 2022, over the 2021-2022 period, we lost 30% of our old growth cedars. The reasons for this are many, but the fact of the matter is that “experts” don’t really have a clue, and the situation will not improve until people collectively in society have a conscious awareness and manifest action on the edges of the many different causes.
Old Growth & The Importance of Preserving Ancient Forests
Old growth forests are some of the most impressive and most ecologically diverse forests on Earth. These forests contain trees that have been growing for centuries, even thousands of years, and are home to a diverse array of plant and animal species. Old growth forests are celebrated for their ecological importance, as well as their cultural and aesthetic value. In this article, we will explore the characteristics and ecological differences between old growth forests and young forest stands, and why it is crucial to protect and preserve these ancient forests.
What are Old Growth Trees?
Old growth forests are characterized by their large, mature trees that have been growing for hundreds or even thousands of years. These trees have thick trunks and complex branching patterns, with deep roots that anchor them to the forest floor. Old growth trees are typically slow-growing, with tight growth rings that indicate they have survived through periods of drought, fire, and other disturbances.
Many old trees have hollowed middles where the heartwood has rotted out after hundreds of years of no longer having any active living tissue.
Why have they been celebrated since time immemorial?
Old growth forests are celebrated for their cultural and aesthetic value, as well as their ecological significance. These ancient forests are often regarded as sacred places, with a sense of mystery and wonder that inspires awe and reverence. They are also important habitats for many species of plants and animals, and provide critical ecosystem services such as carbon storage, water filtration, and soil stability.
Ecological Differences between Old Growth and Young Forest Stands
The ecological differences between old growth forests and young forest stands are significant. Old growth forests have a complex vertical structure, with several distinct layers of vegetation. The canopy is dominated by tall, mature trees, while the understory is comprised of smaller trees, shrubs, and other plants. The forest floor is littered with fallen leaves, branches, and other organic matter, which decompose slowly over time, enriching the soil and providing nutrients for the forest ecosystem.
In contrast, young forest stands are typically dominated by fast-growing, pioneer species that are adapted to colonizing recently disturbed areas. These forests have a simpler vertical structure, with fewer layers of vegetation and less diverse plant and animal communities. The forest floor is often bare, with little organic matter or soil development. Of course, this is often because of destructive modern logging management practices.
Young forests actually can actually sequester greater amounts of carbon than old growth. Think about it. In old growth, the carbon is already stored up as the tree reached the upper echelon of its genetic limits for how much it can really put away. There is a push in the modern timber industry to harvest all of the old growth trees so that the young ones can get growing and start sequestering more carbon to offset “climate change.” There is the modern push to plant lots of trees. Yes, for sure, where its ecologically appropriate. But I heard university personal who consult to loggers say: “In Idaho, we already have the trees. Lets use them!” There’s something about this that sounds reasonable. And yet… well, are you able to refute that argument?
Interestingly enough, younger forests with aggressively growing youthful trees can and often grow greater quantities and volume of many species of mushrooms than old growth as well. But not as many, and not as sophisticated of them.
Biotic Communities in Old Growth Forests
Old growth forests are home to a diverse array of plant and animal species that are adapted to the unique conditions of these ancient ecosystems. The complex vertical structure of old growth forests provides habitat for a wide range of species, from canopy-dwelling birds to ground-dwelling mammals and insects.
The understory of old growth forests is particularly rich in species biodiversity, including ferns, mosses, and wildflowers. These plants are adapted to the low light levels and moist, nutrient-rich soil of the forest floor, and provide critical habitat and food sources for a variety of animal species. There isn’t necessarily always a greater number of different plants, but there are whole suites of microbes, fungi, plants, animals, that all rely exclusively on the old growth biome.
Old growth forests also provide important habitat for rare and endangered species, such as the spotted owl. These species rely on the large trees and complex canopy structure of old growth forests for nesting and roosting sites, and are highly sensitive to habitat loss and fragmentation.
Importance of Preserving Old Growth Forests
Preserving old growth forests is critical for maintaining healthy ecosystems and protecting biodiversity. These ancient forests provide critical habitat for a wide range of plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. They also provide important ecosystem services such as carbon storage, water filtration, and soil stability, which are crucial for maintaining healthy and resilient ecosystems.
Old growth forests also have cultural and aesthetic value, and are an extremely, massively important part of our natural heritage. They inspire awe and wonder, and provide opportunities for recreation, education, and spiritual reflection.
Don’t get me started on the trees that covered the realm before the archon invasion, the true old growth that the finest of our modern old growth look like twigs and childs play compared to!