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Greater Mississauga Area
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The Ecologist Ode
Beauty buds from mire
a singer in season,
observe Death is a name for beauty not in use.
By Irving Layton
Scanned copy, if there are errors, please e-mail me with corrections:
This article is posted along with other references and links to dead, rotten and sometimes smelly stuff, normally found in nature, to give some quick insight into how the ecosystem really works and why Nature's way is best.
Often people will look at fallen trees in the Cawthra Bush and say the forest needs to be cleaned up. Translation - let me collect the dead wood for my firewood. Completely wrong minded but an all too common and socially acceptable selfish train of thought. Especially true for small fragmented forests that must depend on recycling as much of their bio-mass (themselves), as they can. Any good gardener or farmer will tell you that if you keep removing what grows from the soil and never put back then the soil will become depleted of the nutrients, the building blocks of life and support less and less of the living. This is how a desert is created and what humans' do best.
The value of dead trees is properly not appreciated, both standing and fallen. Dead standing trees are very important to forest wildlife as den trees, whether they as birds, mammals or insect. In DEATH'S BOUNTY, great insight is provided into the value of dead trees as they fall to earth and a recycled into other trees and plants as well as the process itself.
The role of salamanders is a great one as they go deep into the ground, eat what lives down there and often are eaten or die on (or closer to), the surface. Bring energy back up to surface. It has been shown that bio-mass of salamanders in a forest can equal or exceed the bio-mass other wildlife in the same area, combined! Hope post more on this later.
References for further understanding and aiding an
search are provided.
When dead trees are removed from woodlands, nature is the
IF you don't believe there's life after death, look closer some spring day at a dead tree lying on the forest floor. Chances are, if it has been there for a while, it is teeming with more life now than when it was standing erect lifting its leafy arms to the sky.
Though it lacks the spring finery that inspires poets and lovers, a leafless tree is often more valuable to its forest dead than alive, say U.S. ecologists working in the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. This fact, they say, has been largely ignored by woodhungry forest managers in most of the U.S. and Europe, where overzealous harvesting of "deadwood" has depleted forests and rendered them highly susceptible to environmental stresses like acid rain.
"Rotten wood was once considered just a fire hazard, a waste, an impediment to travel," says Dr. Michael Amaranthus, a soil scientist with the United States Forest Service in Grants Pass, Ore. "We are seeing it as an essential part of the forest system, crucial to its long-term productivity. It provides a reservoir of moisture and nutrients, of habitats and food resources for a diversity of organisms. Our understanding of the importance of dead wood has increased a lot in the last 10 years."
When nature cries "timber," countless unseen denizens of the forest rush to take up lodging. Dead trees serve as warehouses and even factories for vital nutrients that enrich the soil and foster new growth. They store carbon, thus curbing atmospheric carbon dioxide and the pace of global warming. They hold volumes of water that sustain growing trees in droughts. And they serve as nurseries for new plant life, providing cozy niches where seeds can gain a firm roothold.
The trunk is consumed by a succession of microbes, plants and animals that help to replenish the soil as they break down the wood. As a result, say forest ecologists Chris Maser and James M. Trappe, the tree is an accumulation of life and nutrients that is greater than the sum of its original parts.
"In a forest where the trees are repeatedly cut and removed, the soil becomes depleted, the structures deteriorate and the forest loses its resilience for ... stress," says Mr. Trappe, a forest mycologist (a fungus botanist) at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
This has already happened in Germany, where the forests are being severely damaged by air pollution and acid rain, he says.
Fallen trees help to preserve the forest by stemming the erosion of soil from wooded slopes and diverting streams that in straight courses might gouge out soil. In fresh waterways, fallen trees trap nutrient-rich sediments and create pools where fish can spawn and fry develop.
Beyond the forest, dead trees help stabilize beaches and create habitats for wildlife in estuaries and salt marshes. Logs that reach the open sea serve as a major source of carbon and other foodstuffs for marine life.
"The function of dead trees in the ecosystem has rarely received the consideration it deserves," says Dr. Jerry F. Franklin, an ecosystem analyst at the University of Washington's College of Forest Resources in Seattle. "At the time a tree dies, it has only partially fulfilled its potential ecological function. In its dead form, a tree continues to play numerous roles as it influences surrounding organisms. The woody structure may remain for centuries and influence habitat for millennia."
As scientists with the U.S. Forest Service in Corvallis in the 1980s, Mr. Maser and Mr. Trappe produced a technical review, The Seen and Unseen World of the Fallen Tree, that could easily become Exhibit A in the ongoing case to preserve forests.
Using the unmanaged 450-year-old forests of Douglas fir in the Pacific Northwest, they showed that dead wood was far more than mere waste or a fire hazard to be removed as quickly as possible.
"A dead or fallen tree is simply an altered state of a five tree and has hundreds of years of contribution it can make," says Mr. Maser. "The big question is how much wood needs to be left in the landscape as a biological reinvestment in the land that supports us all."
Once a tree falls, it passes through
distinct phases of decay, Messrs. Maser and Trappe
At each stage, the tree supports new life for which it is the principal
Carpenter ants are most active in the second stage. Their catholic diet includes butterflies and the honeydew of aphids. Nesting in fallen logs, they carry nutrients into the tree from the outside. Termites take over a little later, importing in their wood-chomping bodies both protozoa that digest cellulose and bacteria that capture atmospheric nitrogen. By the time a termite colony is ready to move on, it has created a labyrinth of passageways in the tree that can be used by other animals and by the roots of invading plants.
As logs reach stage three, their bark and sapwood is sloughed off and plants have taken root. The logs become ready for occupation by a wide range of animals.
At stage four, the two Scientists say various mites, insects, slugs and snails feed on the higher plants that become established on the rotten wood. In this microenvironment, mites thrive on the dead plant and animal matter that accumulates on fallen trees. The Sketons of dead mites, in turn, serve as incubators for fungal spores, and the fungi provide sustenance for other invading organisms.
At stage five, the tree is no more than a powdery mass. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, soil to soil. But by then it has been home to a diversity of organisms, a starting point for the food chain.
A case in point: Among the ecologically important denizens of fallen Douglas fit is the California redbacked vole. The rodent eats mostly fungi and lichens but has a particular passion for truffles.
The vole disperses the spores of the truffle, inoculating decaying trees with this valued foodstuff. This benefits other truffle-eaters, including the squirrels and mice that are the principal foodstuffs of the spotted owl and other carnivores.
"The spotted-owl debate is not case of
versus people," says Mr. Trappe. "It's a question of whether we
the diversity of organism that the natural forest provides, or in its
a monoculture in which many organisms will disappear."
References for further understanding and aiding an Internet search are provided;
Amaranthus M. - J.M. Trappe - L. Bednar 1994,
DeGraaf, M.; Shigo, A. L. 1985,
Edmonds, Robert L. and James L. Marra
Franklin, Jerry, Cromack, Jr., Kermit, et al. others
, Feb. 1981,
Franklin, J. F., H. H. Shugart and M. E.
Graham, Harvey, Jurgensen, Jain, Tonn and
Hardwick, R. C. 1987,
Harmon et al 1986,
Harmon, M., W. K. Ferrell and J. F. Franklin
Harmon, M.E.and C. Hua Oct 1991,
Harmon M.E.- J. Sexton- B.A. Caldwell and S.E. Carpenter 1994,
Harvey A.E. M.J. Larsen
and M.F. Jurgensen 1976,
Harvey, A.E., M.F. Jurgensen, and M.J. Larsen. 1981,
Hornbeck, J.W., Smith, Q.W., Martin, Q.W., Tritton, L.M. and
Hornbeck, J.W. 1992,
Kropp, B.R. 1982,
Kruys, N. and B.G. Jonsson 1999,
Maser, Chris, Robert F. Tarrant, James M. Trappe, and Jerry F.
Page-Dumroese, Harvey, Jurgensen and Graham 1991,
Shigo, A. L. June 1977,
Shigo, A. L. 1994,
Shigo, A. L. 1996,
Shigo, A. L. 1999,
Shigo, A. L. June 2000,
Trappe, J.M. 1977,
Voller, Joan and Scott Harrison 1998,
Wargo, P.M. and H. R. Skutt 1975 ,
Williams, Ted May 1991,
Woodier, Oliwen 1998 (Dec /January),
A CALL FOR SOUND SCIENCE ON THE MANAGEMENT OF ECOLOGICAL STAGES OF TREES AND THEIR ASSOCIATES.
By John A. Keslick, Jr., Tree Biologist.
SHIGO AND TREES, ASSOCIATES ? Scientific Books, video, and
Dead Tree Web - Dynamics of the Dead Wood Cycle
Forest Ecology and Management
USDA Forest Service - St. Paul Field Office.
University of Washington - College of Forest Resources -
Russia's Forest Industry and Ecology
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