Visitors to our forests often ask why we work on growing forests that are multiple ages and many species. “Wouldn’t it be easier and more profitable to just grow single age, single species plantations like nearly all of your neighbors do?”. While we have many reasons for using the approaches we do – some of them scientifically based and other driven more by gut instinct – the question raised is a good one. Because of this, it is something that we always work on learning more about. As people who feel that we have a responsibility to maintain and rebuild the public values of our forests and believe that the long term profitability and health of our forests is more important than the short term, we think that avoiding the risks of the plantation approach makes good, pragmatic business sense. At the same time, we work to be disciplined in always questioning the assumptions that our approaches are based on – “what if we’re wrong?”.
Which brings us to the value of learning. We’re prompted to share these thoughts just now because of two research publications that we’ve run into in recent months. Both appear to shine light on the risks and down sides of the plantation approach that dominates our landscape in western Oregon. Though we are told that plantation silvaculture is what the prudent investor does, we question whether that conclusion is a valid one.
The first piece of research, done by scientists at Oregon State University, explores the negative impact of plantation forestry on summer stream flows. We encourage you to check it out and are happy to provide copies of the paper. Unfortunately it does not appear to be available online.
The second paper suggests that, in some circumstance trees, grow better in mixed species stands rather than in single species stands. This link provides a newspaper style report:
Here is a link to the paper: http://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-016-0063.
Because we find both of these studies to be helpful and interesting, even if not definitive, we think you may as well.
The learning continues – and that is one of the rewards of forest stewardship.