Contemporary Concerns

The fears of scarcity and depletion of forest resources that gave rise to forest science are cyclical. They also vary geographically and culturally. In affluent countries, some people are as concerned about nonconsumptive resources, like landscape aesthetics and biodiversity, as they are with wood supplies. Scotland's first national park (see Case study 1) offers a case of a visual forest manage ment objective and its effect on silvicultural and harvest systems. Elsewhere in Europe and North America, single species forests are being converted to species mixtures and managed for the structural or compositional diversity associated with naturally regenerated forests. Various terms are used to describe this trend, including continu ous cover forestry, ecosystem management, and close to nature forestry. In less affluent countries, many people still use wood for cooking and heating and rely on both natural and planted forests for food, fuelwood, and con struction materials. Planted forests, or plantations, also yield wood for industrial use and international trade. The contribution of plantations to the social, ecological, and economic conditions of a site are subject to ongoing study and debate. Some cultures rely on forests to yield nuts, resins, latex, sap, poisons, cork, fiber, fungi, fruits, spices, honey, herbs, drugs, dyes, tannins, bamboo, and rattan (see Figure 2). The study of how humans use plants is the focus of economic botany or ethnobotany.

There is growing global awareness that our human population is increasing and many resources, like fossil fuels, are limited. Forests have a finite ability to meet competing demands placed upon them, but many forest resources are renewable, as long as soil fertility is not depleted or conversion to another land use does not occur. Indeed, as a case study of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation illustrates (see Case study 2) many attributes offorests are available for use in perpetuity ifthe basis for their existence is not jeopardized, either by the methods used to extract them or the amount that is removed.

Humans benefit from forests on scales ranging from global (carbon and oxygen cycles) to local (hunting and recreation). The goods and services people want from forests vary by culture and demand for them varies with population density, per capita income and wealth distri bution, and access to land. The reasons for managing forests change, and the pool of knowledge and types of technology with which to do so accumulate over time. However, the basic management techniques change little; they always involve securing the conditions in which a tree seedling can grow.

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