Old growth forests are well known for their aesthetic appeal as well as for their importance in both culture and history. Old growth, however, refers to more than just the age of the trees.
It is challenging to define old growth in a way that will apply to all forests, according to Merrill R. Kauffman, the author of a research on western old growth. For others, an old growth forest is simply one that has not seen logging disturbance. Other phrases like “untouched by man,” “cathedral old growth,” and “legacy forests” also spring to mind.
The specifics of the forest can differ from place to location; nonetheless, they all have deadwood, species diversity, and other structural characteristics that make them special and deserving of preservation. Old growth forests, however, must be protected for their ecosystems’ species diversity, habitat, and carbon sequestration.
Old growth in Mixed Mesophytic Forests, or temperate forests in moist conditions, is the subject of a research by William H. Martin in the Appalachian region of the United States. Little evidence of human activity can be discovered here, and pockets of old growth developed because they resisted logging. The ecosystems contain a large diversity of plant life, 200-year-old trees, and several fallen trees. These forests are valuable because they provide habitat and a variety of species.
In the West, where fire is a frequent occurrence and some forests or tree species depend on periodic fires, a different tale is being told. In a study under the direction of Kauffmann, the group analyzed old growth in various parts of the western United States, demonstrating that old growth forests in the west are probably distinguished less by human influence and more by the number of trees that have survived significant fires. In western ecosystems, fire type and frequency is the main factor influencing the development of old growth forests.
Even though they are located hundreds of miles apart, these two old-growth woods are valuable both now and in the future. Both are abundant in species, offer habitat, and trap carbon, which is crucial for reducing climate change. “Just as there are many various types of forests for the broad array of climates, soils, and topography in the western United States, there are many different types of old-growth forests,” writes Kauffman, “there are many different types of forests.”
Modern forest management places a high premium on preserving old growth forests and fostering the growth of younger forests.
Martin adds, “The living members take care of themselves. Management of old growth actually differs from conventional forest management because there is more emphasis on the number and state of dead material and the multitude of actions related with it.”