Holistic forestry methods in the forestry manual
A Summary Introduction of this holistic forestry manual and an excerpt from:
"The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq. Awakening: Living with today’s forest."
Introduction: A New Blend of Forest Thinking
Today's forestry work sometimes appears to focus on cutting the forest resource for immediate financial gain with little priority given to water and wildlife conservation. Concern has been raised regarding the sustainability of these practices and the potential harm to the habitat for plants and wildlife.
A new blend of forest thinking views the forest as a variety of interacting living communities. The wildlife, plants, and trees are given consideration, as are the people who work and live there. Each community is an important component that contributes to the overall balance, good health and longevity of the forest. Managing a forest from the wholistic perspective translates to slower financial gain but guarantees the forest and all of its communities are maintained.
The methods of forest management described in this publication are not new. Rather it is the process of deciding when and what treatments are best suited to ensure the longevity and balance of all systems that makes this manual unique in its content.
The Objective is not to control, but rather to work with natural processes, keeping the forest in a healthy and productive condition while taking out value of human needs.
Wholistic forestry realizes the importance of leaving something for future generations. Wholistic thinking is blended with today's forestry treatments and management techniques to promote a balance that meets immediate economic needs, protects forest life, and maintains standing forest for the future. Forestry practices foster the health of all components within this complex ecosystem creating balance and harmony. The interdependence of all living things and their important contribution to the health and sustenance of the natural environment as a whole is respected and maintained.
The Philosophy of wholistic forestry does not exclude man and his interaction with the forest. It balances human interests equally with the interests of all of the other components of the forest system. Man is not afforded exploitive privilege in wholistic forestry.
This publication is an attempt to help guide everyone in this approach.
Page 28 (of 74 page Mikmaq forest manual)
Healthy Forests have some core features in common:
Diversity - A Mixture of different species of trees, plants, and wildlife
Vertical Structure - Standing trees with variation in age, height, diameter including the presence of standing deadwood.
Presence of horizontal coarse woody debris - Fallen deadwood that provides habitat for insects and small animals.
A source of cool, slow, meandering water.
When practicing wholistic forestry, it is important to be mindful and respectful of the importance of each of these features. Wholistic forest use is best (and most easily) carried out in forest stands that contain a mixture of species (diversity). It's easier because diversity allows more choices. Therefore, a forest with many different species of trees, of varying sizes (heights and ages) will create more productive forest.
Layers of the forest:
Canopy - Top layer of trees or the "roof" of the forest
Understory - These trees are generally younger and definitely shorter than the canopy (small to medium sized trees), as well as standing deadwood
Shrubs - This Layer includes "bushes" such as alders and wild raisin
Herbs - includes low growing plants below the shrubs
Forest Floor - Includes fallen deadwood
Each layer is very important to wildlife species that depend on it and each is an essential part of the ecosystem or "web" that makes up the forest community. The more intricate or diverse the web is, the more stable the forest is likely to be. If too many relationships are disrupted, a forest is likely may cease to function fully. Wholistic forest use requires woodland that is more natural in its look than areas such as tree plantations and picnic parks. Nature seems to favor a rather "messy household". More herbs, grasses, shrubs, trees, and deadwood (both standing and on the ground), create more food and shelter for more forms of wildlife. It can go against a sense of neat and tidy, but leaving it natural is better for all forest beings and, on a more practical note, is less work.
The Forest Mix
A variety of species are present in the healthy forest. A basic knowledge of tree species and their shade tolerance is important.
Some species of trees germinate and grow best in direct sunlight and are referred to as shade intolerant. Included in this group are cherries, the aspens, poplar, grey birch, white birch, etc. These species are often the first to appear in cutover areas or after forest fires. As the first to appear, they are also referred to as "pioneer" species.
Spruce, Pine, hemlock, oak, sugar maple, and yellow birch are referred to as shade tolerant species and grow more easily in shaded areas. These take root and wait in the shade of the full forest canopy opening offers smaller individuals a chance to grow and flourish. Uneven-aged forests accommodate these species as the canopy is maintained.
The focus of wholistic forestry is, of course, to include a healthy presence of both tolerant and intolerant species in the forest mix. Once again the diversity will provide more habitat for wildlife.