American forests in peril from harvests, researchers report
America's national forests continue to deteriorate, and a proposed switch from clear-cut logging to selective harvesting might not stop the deterioration, researchers said this week. "In a general sense, the condition of the forests is declining," said Peter Stangel of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in Washington, D.C. "People are working hard to turn that around, but it's not going to be as easy as we thought."
Photo credit: Colin Brough. www.sxc.hu
Studies presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology also suggested that selective logging could pose new problems not seen with clear cutting. The issue is crucial, as public outrage builds over the scarred earth and stumps left behind by clear cutting. Congress is considering legislation to ban clear cutting in the national forests, and the pratice has been a frequent target of environmental groups.
But the effects of selective cutting are not yet known, researchers said. "A close look reveals that selective cutting may not be all that much of an advantage," Stangel said. "We're in a tricky spot here, because there are no studies," said Scott Robinson, an ecologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey in Champaign, Ill. "We don't know what animals use the gaps" left behind by selective cutting, he said.
If the gaps left where trees are removed prove to be large enough to attract predators, then selective cutting could turn out to be more damaging than clear cutting, by opening opportunities for predators throughout the forest, Robinson said. On the other hand, selective cutting can be done without destroying the forest bird community, one measure of forest health, he said.
"We know that forest birds stay in if the volume (of timber) removed isn't too great - in the 25 percent range," Robinson said. One piece of evidence that the forests are deteriorating comes from a precipitate decline in migrating birds, Stangel said. During the past decade, the population of 70 percent of America's neotropical migrants - those that fly to Latin America for the winter - has declined, Stangel added.
SOURCE: Earth Times
This article was originally written by Maji Musa and published by Earth Times, a fast-developing online newspaper and news resource that brings its readers up-to-date information on environmental issues throughout the world.
Read more articles with reference to Environment, Ecosystems and Animals/Wildlife. Extend your knowledge by visiting the Ideas Globe, or view our Hot Topics to find more key articles to discuss. We welcome all of your thoughts, Actions, Projects and Proposals!
Not a Planetary Citizen yet? Join us and Sign up to Our Future Planet today!