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A Critique of Silviculture: Managing for Complexity 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1597261463
ISBN-10: 1597261467
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  • A Critique of Silviculture: Managing for Complexity
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Editorial Reviews


"...the authors conduct an excellent review of ecological concepts and the value of those concepts in application to management."
(Natural Areas Journal)

"In this concise work Puettmann, Coates, and Messier address the issue of complexity in forest management by walking readers through a historical accounting of silviculture as a discipline."

About the Author

Klaus J. Puettmann is professor of silviculture and forest ecology in the Department of Forest Science at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
K. David Coates is a senior research silviculturist with the Northern Interior Forest Region of the Ministry of Forests and Range in Smithers, British Columbia.
Christian Messier is professor of forest ecology and director of the Center for Forest Studies in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Quebec at Montreal.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press; 1 edition (November 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597261467
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597261463
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #738,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
For at least two thousand years, forests have been managed in some fashion to maintain productive harvest for fuels, building materials, paper and other products. Started as a local part of the economy, forest management has morphed into a intensive cropping system that places millions of hectares across the world into production each year. The goal of the system is maximal return on investment, with a view that this is best accomplished with factory methods.

The result is that a tunnel-vision view of trees as simply industrial product has blotted out the importance of ecosystem functions of natural forests. Natural forests are replaced by evenly grown, homogeneous blocks of trees with limited diversity. Not only is the composition of the natural forest profoundly changed at the level of the tree species, the rich community of the natural forest is destroyed. The loss of biodiversity has profound implications for the planet as a whole.

The authors do an extraordinary job building multiple contexts in a few very readable chapters. The chapters are well organized. Complex issues presented in ways that make them very understandable. Jargon is minimal and, where needed, clearly defined.

The book traces the evolution of silviculture through history from ad hoc methods to formalized modern methods (the modern methods are presented as including science, but the system is taken to task for being more learned-based than thought-based).

Silviculture gives way to a discussion on theoretical ecology. The discussion is a tight and excellent review the science of ecology and its evolution from Darwin to present thoughts on the dynamics of ecosystems and the organisms they contain.
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Format: Paperback
I'm an eclectic non-fiction reader and happened to come across this book by unanticpated circumstances. That said, I'm glad I did. The book is a concise enjoyable read on forestry past, present and perhaps the future. I think environmentalists, forest professionals, botanists, ecologists, etc. could find this book seminal. Others, like me trying to broaden their horizons, might have a road bump or two with the modest amount of technical terms, some based on German, but overall, find the book well written and interesting. Given the other two authors are from outside the States, perhaps Dr. Puettmann ought to head of the US Forest Service given the insightfulness, balance, and future thinking exhibited in the arguements.
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Format: Paperback
This is an interesting, if mis-named book. Rather than offering a true critique of silviculture it instead offers a defense. But what does the practice need defense from? First and foremost, silviculture must keep itself from becoming obsolete. There's this sense of inadequacy - the practice is looking a bit old and faded, the decor tired. We need to spiff this machine up! Then there are the hardy invasives, the ecologists. They're steadily encroaching into the world of forest management, and doing so with their cool, fancy new tools.

So what to do? This is where the book gets interesting. The authors consistently show that top down, command and control management styles are not working long term (for the forests and not necessarily for the consumers of the trees) and instead prescribe a more relaxed, highly analytic approach. Be more like the ecologists they say. By adopting complexity models, present day forest managers will be able to manage in much more detail, controlling all sorts of inputs, outputs and balances to make sure that the forests come out just right (according to whom?). Yet the authors also repeatedly admit that complex systems such as a forest have a great deal of inherent uncertainty (temporally and spatially) and complex, ill-understood feedback loops. More research is of course needed to understand this complexity and make these models work reasonably well while knowing all along that some of the key mechanisms and interactions will always be random and thus unpredictable. The models then will always be limited in their effectiveness, the managers never certain just what they're doing - just the same as today.
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A Critique of Silviculture: Managing for Complexity
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