Nature's Temples: The Complex World of Old-Growth Forests

Nature's Temples: The Complex World of Old-Growth Forests

by Joan Maloof


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“Maloof eloquently urges us to cherish the wildness of what little old-growth woodlands we have left. . . . Not only are they home to the richest diversity of creatures, but they work hard for humans too.” —New York Times Book Review 
An old-growth forest is one that has formed naturally over a long period of time with little or no disturbance from humankind. They are increasingly rare and largely misunderstood. In Nature’s Temples, Joan Maloof, the director of the Old-Growth Forest Network, makes a heartfelt and passionate case for their importance. This evocative and accessible narrative defines old-growth and provides a brief history of forests. It offers a rare view into how the life-forms in an ancient, undisturbed forest—including not only its majestic trees but also its insects, plant life, fungi, and mammals—differ from the life-forms in a forest manipulated by humans. What emerges is a portrait of a beautiful, intricate, and fragile ecosystem that now exists only in scattered fragments. Black-and-white illustrations by Andrew Joslin help clarify scientific concepts and capture the beauty of ancient trees.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604697285
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 11/16/2016
Pages: 200
Sales rank: 343,431
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Joan Maloof is a scientist, writer, and the founder and director of the Old-Growth Forest network, a nonprofit organization creating a network of forests across the U.S. that will remain forever unlogged and open to the public. She studied plant science at the University of Delaware, environmental science at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and ecology at the University of Maryland College Park. She is the author of Teaching the Trees and Among the Ancients.

Read an Excerpt

Forests have sprung naturally from the earth with no help required from humans. Although trees are the most obvious part of a forest, many, many other life forms exist there as well. The measure of this variety of life forms is termed biodiversity. The past ten thousand years have seen a drastic reduction in biodiversity due to human activities, primarily the way we manipulate the land. Many species have disappeared completely. Harvesting wood products from forests is one way that humans affect the land. In this book we look specifically at how the life forms in an ancient undisturbed forest, including the trees, differ from the life forms in a forest manipulated by humans. The details are shared in these pages, but I will give you the conclusion up front: more species exist in old-growth forests than in the forests we manage for wood products, and some species exist only in older forests.

In the chapters ahead you will frequently see old-growth forests compared to managed forests, so perhaps it is useful to clarify these terms right away. The forests that have formed naturally over a long period of time with little or no disturbance we call old-growth forests. In contrast, managed forests are the result of purposeful human action. Management techniques include logging, thinning, burning, planting, and spraying. Forests can be managed in many different ways and for many different reasons, but most often they are managed to grow timber for particular wood products that result in a financial return.

Although wood is a wonderful renewable resource, and most owners of forestland are now careful to replant after harvesting, it is a misconception that typical forest management can conserve all forest biodiversity. Scientific evidence tells us otherwise. In these pages I present the evidence. The studies that enable us to challenge the misconception are sprinkled far and wide among many different journals and over many years, so I thought it helpful to compile descriptions of the studies and their results in a book. I originally intended to include only the studies done in eastern North American forests (since the western forests have been the focus of other books), and although the focus here remains on eastern forests, I soon realized that including a global perspective added depth to the evidence.
Over and over I have read or heard espoused that forests must be managed to be healthy. Perhaps forests must be managed to get the healthiest economic return, but true biological health is found in the unmanaged old-growth forests. I can say that because the scientists who have done these careful studies have offered their data to us. I also know it to be true because I have spent time in many, many old-growth forests and have heard the birdsong, witnessed the soaring canopies, and breathed the forest air.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself,” John Muir wrote in My First Summer in the Sierra, “we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” The truth of this often-quoted line will be evidenced over and over again in these pages. Although each chapter has a specific topic, you will soon see that they are all, indeed, hitched together.

Table of Contents

Preface 7

Acknowledgments 9

What is an old-growth forest? 15

History of the forest 21

Forests and carbon 31

The oldest trees 39

The largest trees 51

Birds and their habitat preferences 63

Forests and the needs of amphibians 69

Snails as indicators 77

The role of insects in the forest 83

Herbaceous plant populations and logging 99

Mosses, liverworts, and trees 111

Fungi in the forest ecosystem 119

What lichens tell us about forests 133

Worms: friend or foe of forests? 147

Mammals that roam the forest 157

Do humans need the forest? 167

Metric Conversions 176

Source Notes 177

Illustration Credits 194

Index 195

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Nature's Temples: The Complex World of Old-Growth Forests 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
BooksforKatie More than 1 year ago
Do you know everything there is to know about trees and what they do for the environment? Well I don't either! This book is very detailed on everything there is to know about trees and the forests they grow in. The author goes into great detail about how trees ages are determined, measuring height, and a chapter for each group that live in the forest (fungi, amphibians, insects, mammals, etc). To me this book felt like a textbook turned into a personal narrative. I had a hard time staying focused with the book, but non-fiction botany related books are usually not what I would read. I do agree with the author that the protection of old-growth forests needs to be a top priority. We just need to keep in mind that there is a difference in protection and maintaining/preserving. Old-growth forests need the old to decompose to then feed the new growth, otherwise we do not have a forest! Thank you Timber Press and NetGalley for the digital ARC of this book!