|Forests and people are connected, and have been since ancient times. We have always had a special relationship based on survival. It was a delicate chain of existence that we once treated with respect and appreciation. But people began to upset this balance. They saw the forest not as a part of them but as something to be conquered. They used the seemingly limitless forest, cutting down millions of trees. But now it is coming to our attention that the forests do have limits and it is time to bring them back into balance.|
|All living things including marbled murrelets, tailed frogs and even fungi depend on forests. There are as many as 1,500 invertebrates living on and in one ancient forest tree! Some of these species may hold the key to unlocking scientific mysteries. Each plant and animal is unique and many of these animals depend entirely on the forests.||
|There is still much we don't know about forest ecosystems but each day is leading to new discoveries. Each animal, insect and plant contains its individual genetic material that has been evolving for thousands of years. Protecting the forests does not just mean saving a lot of trees, it is preserving a process of life that started billions of years ago. Ancient forests bring a better understanding of how forests work.||
All life forms, including the cup fungi shown here, depend on the forest, either directly or indirectly. Photo by Maya Walters.
|Many scientists and foresters have been working on ways to grow trees over repeated "rotations" for timber use. But their management strategies have gone awry. In Germany, "Waldsterben" (forest death), caused by pollution and bad forest management, has prevented the forests from being able to regrow, destroying the ecosystems. This tragedy has also occurred in Australia. Some ancient forests, however, are still alive and are excellent examples of long-term forests. The more we study these forests, the more we can learn about forest ecology.|
|Forests protect our waters and manage our climate. When it rains in the forests, the leaves allow the water to slowly drip to the ground. When a forest has been clear-cut, the rain pours down hard on the unprotected soil. The dirt then washes into streams, muddying the waters. This is unhealthy for the fish, and can cause flooding. Also, without trees, the moisture in the air evaporates quickly, changing the climate of nearby forests. This process prevents trees from receiving the water they need.||In the developing world, two billion people (about 1/3 of the earth's population) still rely entirely upon firewood for fuel. In developed countries, drugs for cancer and AIDS are extracted from trees.|
A fast-moving forest stream. Photo by Maya Walters.
|Natural forests add to the economy. In 1988, six billion dollars were added to the economies of Washington and Oregon because of recreation in forests. People enjoy and appreciate fresh air, clear water, beautiful scenery and wildlife. So, places with all of the above are ideal tourist spots. Also, businesses like to be located in areas of such serene beauty.|
|Canoes are launched on a forest lake, among logs that have been uprooted by avalanches. Photo courtesy Naomi Woods.|
|Without the forests we would have much less oxygen. One acre of forest provides over 6 tons of oxygen per year! This is because trees (and all green plants) use a process called photosynthesis, during which they take in carbon dioxide and, as a by-product, produce oxygen. Plants "breathe" carbon dioxide, like we breathe oxygen. There has been a balance between species that breathe out carbon dioxide and take in oxygen, and species that take in carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. Since the 1800's this balance has been upset. Fossil fuels, when burned, create carbon dioxide, so carbon dioxide levels have risen dramatically. Unfortunately, this gas, in large amounts, acts like an insulator and keeps heat near the surface of the Earth. This is called the "greenhouse effect."|
Unlike clouds, "Greenhouse gases", are invisible and build up in the atmosphere. Photo courtesy Naomi Woods.
|In addition to the other important aspects of the ancient forests, some individual species, such as the yew tree (Taxus brevifolia), have shown great importance in the medical field. The bark of the yew tree provides taxol, an anti-cancer agent. It helps treat ovarian, lung and breast cancer. This property of the yew tree was only discovered in recent years, and if the forests that are home to the yew trees are lost, other medical treatments may also be lost as well.|
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[forests through time] [threats to forests] [forest life] [deforestation & overcutting] [erosion] [fish] [plants] [pollution]
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