17 December 2016 [Your questions]
Why doesn’t your website call for specific actions? On forest plantations and forest pests

Ask your question!

32. Why doesn't your website call for specific actions? For example, one could plant productive forests thus making money and at the same time improving the environment.
Permanent link.
Answered 17 December 2016.
Question author: Oleg and other readers.
Asked 22 May 2016.

In brief:     

The environment, including the water regime, is regulated by natural undisturbed ecosystems. Such ecosystems consist of a strictly defined set of key species -- bacteria, fungi, mosses, lichens, trees, herbs, insects, soil worms, protozoa and others. Every species consumes a strictly defined share of ecosystem productivity and plays a strictly defined role in the complex machinery of environmental stabilization by the biota. Natural ecosystems do not maximize productivity. They maximize their own stability and the stability of their environment.

An arbitrary set of plant and animal species selected for their economic profitability is unable to perform biotic regulation. Such species do not possess the genetic information necessary for the complex process of environmental stabilization. On the contrary, such malfunctioning biological systems can only destabilize the environment (a simple example with alien cacti or eucalypts undermining the native water cycle was discussed here).

Highly productive tree plantations provide for our demand in wood and other tree products (including the aesthetic pleasure of seeing trees). If considered unrelated to the strategic goal -- to stop exploitation of natural forests and facilitate their self-recovery -- tree planting per se has an additional downside: it creates an illusion of something being done to improve the ecological situation. However, within a broader strategic restoration framework, large-scale tree plantations could become a powerful tool in natural forest recovery. To this end, productive tree species could be planted near industrial centers to cut transport expenses and meet the population's demand in wood such that tree cutting in natural ecosystems could be abolished. This requires a state strategy of saving natural forests, cooperation between the forest business community, state and society. Also needed are successful cases of productive tree planting under different climatic conditions in Russia.

Let us illustrate these propositions in greater detail on the example of spruce plantations in the Czech Republic.

Spruce plantations in Sumava National Park destroyed by bark beetles
Spruce plantations in the Šumava National Park killed by the bark beetles.
Photo provided by Prof. Jan Čermák.