Bending, Like the Reed in the Wind: A System to Restore Northwestern Forests

Bending, Like the Reed in the Wind: A System to Restore Northwestern Forests

Our minds, Darwin believed, evolved as well as our bodies. He described what he saw as evidence of problem solving, in varying degrees, throughout a wide array of organisms, even in worms. With the anthropocentric thinking that held sway in the 20th century, accounts of animals exhibiting higher cognitive abilities were regarded as amusing, or ludicrous, mere anecdotes. Recent studies have shown that chimpanzees, New Caledonian crows, dolphins—creatures of the earth, air, and water—exhibit mental flexibility: they employ creative effort to affect their environment. Changing an approach, working to solve a problem—we are not alone in this ability. But no other creature has this mental gift to the extent we possess it, and our evolving sensibilities drive us to seek better ways of operating. Silvicultural practices, that promote the growth of trees in the forest for products (such as lumber) and features (such as water quality or carbon sequestration) can result in reducing the complexity of forest structures and systems, as Russell T. Graham, research forester with the Rocky Mountain Research Station, and his team found. Rather than using existing guidelines for stand structure and treatments, they developed a system for planning and implementing a “vision” of a future forest. Their flexible system integrates the best knowledge of how forests function, from the roots below soil to the tip of the canopy.

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