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Saving the World's Deciduous Forests

Saving the World's Deciduous Forests: Ecological Perspectives from East Asia, North America, and Europe

Robert A. Askins
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Saving the World's Deciduous Forests
    Book Description:

    Deciduous forests have been remarkably resilient throughout their history, recovering from major shifts in climate and surviving periods of massive deforestation. But today the world's great forests confront more ominous threats than ever before. This visionary book is the first to examine forests consisting of oaks, maples, hickories, beeches, chestnuts, birches and ecologically similar animals and plants on three continents-East Asia, Europe, and North America-to reveal their common origin back in time, the ecological patterns they share, and the approaches to conservation that have been attempted on their behalf.Although these forests face common problems, threats due to human activities vary. Different land use and agricultural practices on the three continents, as well as different attitudes about what is worth preserving, have led to strikingly different approaches to forest conservation. Robert Askins explores the strengths and weaknesses of conservation efforts across the continents and concludes that the ideal strategy for the future will blend the best ideas from each.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16740-5
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Parallel Worlds: Spring Forests in New England and Kyoto
    (pp. 1-7)

    The inspiration for this book was a walk along a forest stream in the mountains north of Kyoto on a clear morning in early spring. After working in the forests of eastern North America for many years, I found Japanese forests a mix of the familiar and the strange. My surroundings were mostly familiar. Leaves were just emerging from buds on the overhanging branches of maples and oaks. Splashes of color—clumps of violets, anemones, and trilliums—dotted the mottled brown leaf litter of the forest floor. Straight gray beech trunks, the shallow angle of spring sunlight, and the songs...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Origins of the Deciduous Forest
    (pp. 8-32)

    The “summer-green” deciduous forests originated in an unexpected time and place. The ancient relatives of many deciduous trees can be traced back to the mid to late Cretaceous Period, 113 to 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs were still the dominant large land animals and most of the earth was tropical or subtropical. Remarkably, extensive deciduous woodlands existed only at very high latitudes, near the North Pole in Alaska, Canada, and Siberia and near the Cretaceous South Pole in Australia and Antarctica. Fossil leaves and vertebrate bones from the North Slope of Alaska, Ellesmere Island, and other far northern sites...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Deciduous Forests After the Arrival of People
    (pp. 33-54)

    Before the current interglacial period, temperate-zone forests were molded by changing climate and geological processes such as the rise of new mountain ranges and the emergence and submergence of land bridges due to changing sea levels. Since the retreat of continental glaciers, however, the fate of forests has been increasingly driven by the activities of technologically advanced people. Clearly the impact of people intensified with the development of agriculture, and strengthened even more with industrialization. People may have had a major impact on forests even before agriculture and industrialization, however, because of their use of fire and refined hunting techniques....

  8. CHAPTER 4 Decline of Natural Forests and the Invention of Sustainable Forestry
    (pp. 55-69)

    Based on the extent of undisturbed forest and the rate of forest loss in 1600, it would have been difficult to accurately predict the future for deciduous forests during the next 300 years. Who could have anticipated that Japan would become one of the most heavily forested nations while people in eastern North America would worry about future shortages of wood? These outcomes were largely determined by how quickly and efficiently people started to manage their forests to ensure future supplies of wood and timber. Long after Japan and Europe independently developed effective systems of sustainable forestry, North America and...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Giant Trees and Forest Openings
    (pp. 70-104)

    When land is no longer used for farming in the humid temperate zone, forests will eventually return. Unless the soil has been removed by strip mining, paved over, or poisoned by industrial toxins, the regrowth of the forest is remarkably swift, measured in decades rather than centuries. As a result, second-growth forests now cover large portions of the northeastern United States and the interior of Japan, and regenerating forest is beginning to appear on abandoned farmland in Europe. Does this represent a phoenix-like resurrection of temperate deciduous forests? A more pessimistic view is that the intricate and diverse primeval forests...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Forest Islands and the Decline of Forest Birds
    (pp. 105-136)

    I stopped to listen in the slanting, early-morning light. The flutelike notes of a wood thrush resonated among the tall black oaks and tuliptrees. The challenge was to pinpoint this sound and the songs of other birds so that I could mark their locations on a detailed map of the study site in the Connecticut College Arboretum. Red-eyed vireos sang their monotonous songs—short, choppy phrases separated by brief pauses—from different directions. I worked to disentangle the sources for three different males. Two ovenbirds alternated their loud, penetrating songs, countersinging to defend territories in distinctly different locations. A downy...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Missing Wolves and the Decline of Forests
    (pp. 137-165)

    If current conditions prevail, the ancient beech forests of Kinkazan Island, a small island off the coast of northern Japan, will slowly disappear as forest openings expand and coalesce. The impending decline of this forest isn’t due to some introduced fungus or defoliating insect that is decimating the Japanese beech trees. The problem is more subtle and difficult to detect on the time scale perceived by a human observer. Few beech saplings grow tall enough to reach the forest canopy, so old trees are not replaced when they die.¹ Most saplings are killed because of browsing by numerous sika deer....

  12. CHAPTER 8 The Global Threat of Rapid Climate Change
    (pp. 166-181)

    The deciduous forests of the northern temperate zone are among the best-studied ecosystems in the world. We are beginning to understand what we need to do to protect the remaining deciduous forests, and even how we can reassemble degraded forests or recreate forests in areas that were completely cleared. We can protect remaining old-growth forests and slowly nurture old-growth conditions in younger forests. We can reintroduce natural disturbances that sustain biological diversity or, barring that, learn how to mimic these disturbances to create habitat diversity. We can give a high priority to protecting unbroken expanses of forest and to reconnecting...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Another Global Threat: Transport of Species Between Continents
    (pp. 182-206)

    Although climate change may be a serious long-term threat, the most serious immediate threat to northern deciduous forests is the spread of pathogens and insects that can decimate or even eliminate particular species of trees from a region within a few years. Temperate deciduous forests are resilient in many ways, but they may be unusually vulnerable to this particular problem. Trees in the three isolated blocks of deciduous forest in Europe, East Asia, and eastern North America are closely related. Distinctive species of maples, oaks, beeches, hemlocks, elms, pines, and chestnuts are found on the different continents. On each continent...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Blending Conservation Strategies from Three Continents
    (pp. 207-238)

    The deciduous forests of East Asia, Europe, and eastern North America are remnants of a far more extensive band of deciduous forest that once extended around the Northern Hemisphere. Millions of years of separation resulted in the evolution of different sets of plant and animal species on the three continents, but the basic structure and ecological workings of deciduous forests remained remarkably similar. These forest landscapes began to change profoundly during the past 5,000 years, however, as people converted much of the forest to farmland, pasture, and human settlements. Although the great extent of agricultural clearing was similar on the...

  15. Appendix of Scientific Names
    (pp. 239-248)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 249-266)
  17. References
    (pp. 267-294)
  18. Index
    (pp. 295-307)