- Historically, the typical approach to vegetation management has been
on simplifying nature
- Natural communities are not inherently simple: complex interactions
drive very complex dynamics
- Even monotypic stands of early-successional species are too complex
for us to predict or model
- Why have we tried to simplify nature?
- Limitations of the human brain, and simple mgmt. objectives (max.
forage for livestock or max. wood production for a growing nation)
- Don't blame past vegetation managers
- Food and fiber production are still (and will continue to be) a
primary "use" of natural communities (population growth, @ 1.7%/year =
nearly ¼ million people/day added to planet)
- Public and professional perception of vegetation management are
strongly influenced by:
- "food and fiber" production objectives have dominated management of
- the public and even other natural resource professionals have not
understood vegetation dynamics and the importance of manipulating
vegetation to achieve non-production objectives
- Social values are changing rapidly--faster than trees grow!
- Similarly, you should try to incorporate options for future
flexibility into management prescriptions ...
- e.g., think about biodiversity even if it is not an objective for a
- biodiversity was suddenly thrust into the spotlight, and now it is a
primary focus of vegetation management
- There are good reasons to increase diversity (e.g., economic and
environmental benefits in the US are estimated at $300 billion/year;
Pimentel et al. 1997, cited below)
- There are specific steps to increase diversity in communities managed
for multiple use (adapted from Burton et al. 1992, cited below):
- take inventory
- but don't even imagine that we can "save" everything: extinction of
some species is inevitable; we can document the losses, but we can not
preserve all species and continue to multiply
- identify several appropriate management units
- the fundamental unit of management remains the same--individual
- establish and monitor benchmarks
- promote diversity in artificially established stands (multiple
species, and multiple genotypes within species)
- explore alternatives (constantly push the envelope imposed by
traditional vegetation managers)
- reflect before acting
- In addition, vegetation managers can help society set its objectives
by providing clear information on tradeoffs associated with various
- Blindly implementing prescriptions, without questioning the
assumptions and tradeoffs, is not sufficient anymore
- Administrative structures are changing to reflect changing social
- Common misconceptions are (1) that silviculture is synonymous with,
and limited to, reforestation; and (2) range management is synonymous
with, and limited to, livestock production
- Ideally, silviculturists (forests) and range managers (rangelands)
should be involved in all activities that change plant community structure
- and so should other natural resource professionals
- One goal of most mgmt efforts should be sustainable management of
- Producing one or a few products for human consumption should be a
natural side-effect of appropriate management
- This, according to most proponents, is the goal of
"Ecosystem Management"--to sustain ecosystem processes, with "products"
as by-products of that management
- Can this work?
- Ultimately, humanity must answer the question about sustainability
Additional Information (also see assigned readings):
Brown, L.R. 2003. Plan B: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a
Civilization in Trouble. W.W. Norton, New York.
Burton, P.J., Balisky, A.C., Coward, L.P., Cumming, S.G., and Kneeshaw,
D.D. 1992. The value of managing for biodiversity. Forestry Chronicle
Callicott, J.B. and Mumford, K. 1997. Ecological sustainability as a
conservation concept. Conservation Biology 11:32-40.
Chomsky, N. 2003. Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global
Dominance. Metropolitan Books, New York.
Diamond, J.M. 2005. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.
Viking, New York.
Ehrlich, P. and Ehrlich, A. 2004. One With Ninevah: Politics, Consumption,
and the Human Future. Island Press, Washington, D.C.
Jensen, D. 2000. A Language Older Than Words. Chelsea Green Publishing
Company, White River Junction, Vermont.
Jensen, D. 2004. Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution.
Chelsea Green Publishing Company, White River Junction, Vermont.
Mander, J. 1991. In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology
and the Survival of the Indian Nations. Sierra Club Books, San
Mutz, K.M., G.C. Bryner, and D.S. Kenney, editors. 2002. Justice and
Natural Resources: Concepts, Strategies, and Applications. Island Press,
Pimentel, D., Wilson, C., McCullum, C., Huang, R., Dwen, P., Flack, J.,
Tran, Q., Saltman, T., and Cliff, B. 1997. Economic and environmental
benefits of biodiversity. BioScience 47:747-757.
Soros, G. 2004. The Bubble of American Supremacy: Correcting the Misuse of
American Power. PublicAffairs, New York.
Comprehensive information about sustainability
Suzuki, D. and H. Dressel. 2002. Good News for a Change: How Everyday
People are Helping the Planet. Greystone Books, Vancouver, B.C.
Toman, M.A. and Ashton, P.M.S. 1996. Sustainable forest ecosystems and
management: a review article. Forest Science 42:366-377.
U.S. Census Bureau. World Population
Uhl, C. 2004. Developing Ecological Consciousness: Path to a Sustainable
World. Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland.
Wilson, E.O. 1998. Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. Knopf, New