Single and multiuse forests

Human populations have risen very rapidly in the last few centuries, but in New Zealand and a few other areas they remain so low that very large areas are devoted to little besides timber production. The area of indigenous tall forest, mainly dominated by various southern beeches Nothofagus spp., is so well protected as to remain almost constant at 23% of the total land surface of New Zealand. Exotic plantation forest on the other hand, which had an area of 1.5 million ha in 1996, is increasing rapidly. Though some is planted on scrubland, the majority is on improved or unimproved pasture, most of which was originally developed on areas of felled and often burnt-over native forest. Though some has a degree of recreational value (including picnicking, motorbike riding, orienteering and pig-hunting) much of this plantation forest is used solely for timber production. Most of this forest is not only single-use, it is also dominated by a single tree species and large areas of it are even-aged.

Even-aged single-species stands also occur naturally but they are the exception. Examples of species that do so in North America include Douglas fir, lodgepole pine and radiata (Monterey) pine; in California the last rapidly colonizes after fire but can also form the climax vegetation. The southern beeches of New Zealand also form natural monocultures. Four species of Nothofagus occupy 2.87 million ha (47%) of the indigenous forest of New Zealand and large areas of this have just one tree species.

In most parts of the world, especially where forests are small and near population centres, they are increasingly required to fulfil several functions. Multi-use forests all possess the same broad objectives as those set forth in the

Multiple-Use-Sustained-Yield Act passed by the US Congress in 1960. This stated that the 'most judicious use of land' in respect of the renewable resources of the national forests should specifically concern outdoor recreation, soil, timber, watershed, wildlife and timber. This act also made provision for the establishment and maintenance of wilderness areas, a concept now also realized in other countries where there is interest in the operation of truly natural ecosystems. Individual multi-use forests differ considerably in both the trees and other species present and in their major functions. Some are mainly scientific study areas, while in others the major emphasis is on recreational use. This is considered further under conservation in the multi-purpose landscape (Section 10.7.3).

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