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Renewable Resources: Forest Ecosystems. Original. Today. Frontier. D. Choices. B. A. Which seems the poorest choice?. C. Time Appropriate Questions. What do forest ecosystems provide? What is important or valuable?

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Renewable Resources: Forest Ecosystems

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Which seems the poorest choice?


time appropriate questions
Time Appropriate Questions
  • What do forest ecosystems provide?
  • What is important or valuable?
  • How do we conserve what is valuable?
  • What approaches are available for defining what is important?
  • What approaches are available for conserving?
  • Are we kidding ourselves?
forest ecosystems goods services
Forestecosystems: Goods & Services
  • Fiber - paper and products
  • Fuel - cooking & heating
  • Water - quantity and quality
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Ecosystem energetics (food chain)
  • Air - CO2 uptake, O2 release, pollutant removal
  • Climate stability
  • Biodiversity/habitat: plant and animal (wildlife)
  • Medicine and food products
  • Recreation/mental & social health

Reference: Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods (2006)

ecosystem a human construct
Ecosystem: A Human Construct
  • Definition: An ecological system composed of living organisms (plants, animals, & microbes) and their nonliving environment.
  • Ecosystems are characterized by:
    • Structure & function
    • Complexity
    • Interaction of the components
    • Change over time (e.g., disturbances), “young, mature, old.”
  • Today, these functions must be spatially and temporally coordinated.
ecosystem threats
Ecosystem threats?
  • Loss of habitat: Land-use change and irreversible conversion (fragmentation)
  • Disruption of biogeochemical cycles (N,C,P)
  • Invasive or introduced exotic organisms
  • Toxins, pollutants, human wastes
  • Climate change
ensuring ecosystem goods services approaches
Ensuring Ecosystem Goods & Services: Approaches
  • Examine three different approaches
    • First, we identify specific species we want in our ecosystem (e.g., wolves, spotted owl, whitebark pine, etc.).
    • Second, we identify a process we want to maintain (e.g., carbon fixation).
    • Third: A more comprehensive or systems approach.
      • Two examples that use this third approach
        • NCSSF - small scale, small perspective
        • MEA - small to large scale, many perspectives
whitebark pine
Whitebark Pine

Approach 1. Save a species!

distribution importance of whitebark pine
Distribution & Importance of Whitebark Pine

Pinus albicaulis

  • High elevation pine
  • Large seed
  • Special relationship with a bird
  • Important for other animals
  • Keystone species in the Rockies
whitebark pine ecological importance
Whitebark Pine: Ecological Importance
  • Hardy subalpine conifer, tolerates poor soils, steep slopes, windy exposures.
  • Often the tree line species
  • Keystone species (Rocky Mountain Region)
    • Food source - birds, small mammals & bears
    • Often colonizes a site, facilitates succession & promotes diversity
    • Regulates runoff, reduces soil erosion

Picture: C.J. Earle

decline of whitebark pine
Decline of Whitebark Pine
  • White pine blister rust: Cronartium ribicola, is a rust fungus with two hosts.
    • All North American 5- needled pines
    • In addition, it infects all species of the genus Ribes spp., its alternate host.
    • European & Russian species resistant
  • Problems today
    • Fire suppression
    • Global climate change
    • Mountain pine beetle
  • Whitebark pine is likely to disappear.
  • What are our choices?
    • Do nothing (its “natural”)
    • Remove the Ribes
    • Breed for resistance
    • Introduce resistant European/Russian species
    • Selection and genetic engineering of the endophyte.

2. Ensure a function!

manage for carbon dioxide uptake
Manage for Carbon Dioxide Uptake



Two goals:

• Understand where the hidden sink for carbon dioxide is?

• Use forest systems to take up CO2.

Approach taken by Canada - Kyoto Protocol

methods of study
Methods of Study


• Issues of scale (quality of info vs. extent of info)

• Monitoring

• Unknowns (soil carbon)

• Searchinger, T. et al. 2008. Science Express

• Fargione, J. et al. 2008. Sci. Express

lessons from first 2 approaches
Lessons from first 2 approaches
  • Managing single components or processes: Hard
  • Determination of what to measure, at what scale, how often, etc.
  • Techniques to measure (e.g., what is there now & how is it changing) are expensive
  • Monitoring - expensive, takes time
  • Understanding of interactions (e.g., cascading effects)
  • Regulatory environment may define
  • Nature changes (e.g., forest fire, bard owl)
third approach

Third Approach

Work on maintaining “properly” functioning ecosystems

Key: Remember all the functions?


Two examples

• National Commission on Science for Sustainable Forestry (NCSSF)

• Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Program (MEA)

Mission: to advance the science and practice of biodiversity conservation and forest sustainability
  • Critical Question: How does an owner or manager of forest land tell whether biodiversity and sustainability are being positively, negatively or neutrally affected by management practices and decisions?
  • Or: Is your land ‘good’, changing, & changing in what direction?

what s needed
What’s needed?
  • Early warning assessment system that is
    • Rapid & cost effective

And that is based on

  • Stand level sustainability (condition):
    • Development of functional indicators (of ecosystem services) &
    • associated benchmarks
  • These indicators/benchmarks should represent best available information/science.
does it works in practice
Does it works in practice
  • Functions, variables and benchmark levels can be defined
  • A sampling scheme has been designed & tested
  • Evaluation is then a comparison of values and changes in values.
  • Subsequent decisions are then based on goals and objectives set by land owner.
does it work
Does it work?
  • Perhaps (actually data from urban to rural land
  • Weakness:
    • Assumes that the indicators are correct and respond in a measurable & timely way
    • Assumes that we can react fast enough.
    • Does not link objectives over large areas of land.
  • Clearly better than nothing
yangjuan village
Yangjuan Village

• Apparently intensive use of the land

• Is the use sustainable? And how does land use reflect and affect the inhabitants?

• Idea of eco-political tsunamis

yangjuan land use
Yangjuan Land use


Traditional Buckwheat


Conversion from local land race of corn to new hybrid corn

ecosystem goods and services example 2
Ecosystem Goods and Services: Example 2

Definition of Ecosystem Goods and Services

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Program


older definition of ecosystem goods and services
Older definition of Ecosystem goods and services

Ecosystem goods: Biophysical elements that are directly, or indirectly, consumed by humans

Ecosystem services: processes that produce, or support the production of, ecosystem goods (most involve some biogeochemical cycle).

which is not an ecosystem service


Answer Now!

Which is not an ecosystem service?
  • Provisioning
  • Regulating
  • Cultural
  • Interventions
  • Supporting
newer definition of ecosystem goods and services
Newer definition of Ecosystem goodsand services
  • Provisional services (e.g., food, fiber, fuelwood, biochemicals, genetic resources, and water)
  • Cultural services (e.g., recreational, ecotourism, educational, sense of place, cultural heritage, spiritual, religious and other nonmaterial benefits).
  • Supporting services (e.g., primary production, soil formation & nutrient cycling)
  • Regulating services (e.g., water regulation [floods, irrigation], water purification, climate regulation, land degradation, and disease regulation)
example of an ecosystem service
Example of an Ecosystem Service
  • Soil provides the following ecosystem services
    • Significant regulator of the hydrological cycle
    • Shelters seeds, provides medium for plant growth, provides physical support
    • Retains, delivers & derives nutrients
    • Significant role in decomposition
    • Contributes to cycling, retention & regulation of major element cycles (N, P, C, S)
    • Carbon storage & cycle
    • Role as a purifier (water, nutrients, etc.)
mea conceptual framework




Indirect Drivers of Change

• Demographic

• Economic

• Sociopolitical

• Science & technology

• Cultural & religious

Human well-being & poverty reduction

Direct Drivers of Change

• Changes in land use & land cover

• Species removal or introductions

• Technology

• Climate change

• Natural physical & biological drivers

• External inputs

Ecosystem Services

Life on Earth: Biodiversity

MEA Conceptual Framework
mea goals
MEA Goals
  • Identify options that can better achieve core human development and sustainability goals.
    • Recognize & meet growing demands for food, clean water, health, and employment.
    • Balance economic growth and social development with environmental conservation.
  • Better understand trade-offs involved—across stakeholders—in decisions concerning the environment.
  • Rather than issue by issue, use a multi-sectoral approach
  • Match response options with appropriate level of governance
well being defined mea
Well-Being Defined (MEA)
  • Security: Ability to
    • a. live in an environmentally clean and safe shelter
    • b. reduce vulnerability to ecological shocks & stress.
  • Basic material for a good life: Ability to access resources to earn income and gain a livelihood
  • Health: Clean water, air, adequate nourishment, adequate energy for temperature regulation, good health
  • Good social relations
  • Freedom & Choice
pressures on goals of mea
Pressures on Goals of MEA
  • Population Growth
  • Economy, consumption
  • Combined demand on natural resources
  • Land degradation & conversion
  • Invasive organisms
  • Climate change
  • Public Health (e.g., HIV, malaria, nutrition)
  • Template for evaluation
  • Political acceptance & will (and consistency)
conclusion difficulties
Conclusion: Difficulties
  • Setting limits and distributing responsibility
  • Scale & variable (s)
  • Measurement
  • Monitoring
  • Assessment
  • Regulation
  • Outcomes and Feedback
  • Choices
  • Political will = f (human will)