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A Critique of Silviculture: Managing for Complexity Paperback – Nov 15 2008


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Review

"...the authors conduct an excellent review of ecological concepts and the value of those concepts in application to management."
(Natural Areas Journal)


"In this concise work Puettmann, Coates, and Messier address the issue of complexity in forest management by walking readers through a historical accounting of silviculture as a discipline."
(CHOICE)

About the Author

Klaus J. Puettmann is professor of silviculture and forest ecology in the Department of Forest Science at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
 
K. David Coates is a senior research silviculturist with the Northern Interior Forest Region of the Ministry of Forests and Range in Smithers, British Columbia.
 
Christian Messier is professor of forest ecology and director of the Center for Forest Studies in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Quebec at Montreal.

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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Excellent treatment of subject with surprisingly wide applicability Dec 30 2008
By maxwells daemon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
For at least two thousand years, forests have been managed in some fashion to maintain productive harvest for fuels, building materials, paper and other products. Started as a local part of the economy, forest management has morphed into a intensive cropping system that places millions of hectares across the world into production each year. The goal of the system is maximal return on investment, with a view that this is best accomplished with factory methods.

The result is that a tunnel-vision view of trees as simply industrial product has blotted out the importance of ecosystem functions of natural forests. Natural forests are replaced by evenly grown, homogeneous blocks of trees with limited diversity. Not only is the composition of the natural forest profoundly changed at the level of the tree species, the rich community of the natural forest is destroyed. The loss of biodiversity has profound implications for the planet as a whole.

The authors do an extraordinary job building multiple contexts in a few very readable chapters. The chapters are well organized. Complex issues presented in ways that make them very understandable. Jargon is minimal and, where needed, clearly defined.

The book traces the evolution of silviculture through history from ad hoc methods to formalized modern methods (the modern methods are presented as including science, but the system is taken to task for being more learned-based than thought-based).

Silviculture gives way to a discussion on theoretical ecology. The discussion is a tight and excellent review the science of ecology and its evolution from Darwin to present thoughts on the dynamics of ecosystems and the organisms they contain.

The two major threads of silviculture and ecology are woven together, culminating in the final chapter on managing industrial forests as complex adaptive systems rather than factory floors.

The size of land covered by industrial tree farming is huge and growing each year. Modifying the goals of the industrial forest has great potential for creating forests that yield both industrial wood product and rich ecosystems. This book transcends the niche of silviculture and has broad importance. It is also an excellent read.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Read for a Forestry Intro May 7 2010
By D. K. Ermer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'm an eclectic non-fiction reader and happened to come across this book by unanticpated circumstances. That said, I'm glad I did. The book is a concise enjoyable read on forestry past, present and perhaps the future. I think environmentalists, forest professionals, botanists, ecologists, etc. could find this book seminal. Others, like me trying to broaden their horizons, might have a road bump or two with the modest amount of technical terms, some based on German, but overall, find the book well written and interesting. Given the other two authors are from outside the States, perhaps Dr. Puettmann ought to head of the US Forest Service given the insightfulness, balance, and future thinking exhibited in the arguements.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Not So Clear Cut Oct. 6 2011
By Roboreviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an interesting, if mis-named book. Rather than offering a true critique of silviculture it instead offers a defense. But what does the practice need defense from? First and foremost, silviculture must keep itself from becoming obsolete. There's this sense of inadequacy - the practice is looking a bit old and faded, the decor tired. We need to spiff this machine up! Then there are the hardy invasives, the ecologists. They're steadily encroaching into the world of forest management, and doing so with their cool, fancy new tools.

So what to do? This is where the book gets interesting. The authors consistently show that top down, command and control management styles are not working long term (for the forests and not necessarily for the consumers of the trees) and instead prescribe a more relaxed, highly analytic approach. Be more like the ecologists they say. By adopting complexity models, present day forest managers will be able to manage in much more detail, controlling all sorts of inputs, outputs and balances to make sure that the forests come out just right (according to whom?). Yet the authors also repeatedly admit that complex systems such as a forest have a great deal of inherent uncertainty (temporally and spatially) and complex, ill-understood feedback loops. More research is of course needed to understand this complexity and make these models work reasonably well while knowing all along that some of the key mechanisms and interactions will always be random and thus unpredictable. The models then will always be limited in their effectiveness, the managers never certain just what they're doing - just the same as today. Meanwhile, while they're tweaking their models, the forest keeps doing its thing: growing, dying, adapting to ever changing conditions in ways expected and not. The only logical conclusions that I could come to is that the forests really don't need any management at all and that human caused disturbances should be much smaller in scale. The complexity models become nothing more than smoke and mirrors, an elaborate form of time and resource consuming job protection. Not quite the conclusions presumably intended.


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