ENTS Forest Aesthetics Project    Edward Frank
   Dec 07, 2006 18:12 PST 
ENTS members,

What is it about a particular tree, grove, or forest that tells you that
this is a special place? What is it that touches you in some way on an
emotional, spiritual, or aesthetic level? Is it different for
individual trees as opposed to a section of a forest? If so what are
the differences? I have been contemplating a project for ENTS people,
and want to ask for volunteers to participate. I will even be happy to
have someone else be in charge of the project. as I would rather see
more of a collaborative effort, than one derived directly from my ideas.

At the ENTS Rendezvous in October, I presented a PowerPoint presentation
on ENTS. One slide dealt with what I called the Aesthetics of the
Forest. I had a bulleted list of 1)Music, Poetry, and Prose, 2)
Celebration of Trees, 3) Spiritual, 4) Emotional, 5) Philosophical,
6) Artistic. I would like to see ENTS explore some of these concepts to
a greater degree in the future. I have posted several times, but with
no real response, that I remember one of the major conservation
organizations had not only scientific criteria, but also included a
numerical ranking of aesthetic criteria that was applied to decisions
about whether or not to purchase a particular property with their
limited funding.

I would like to see ENTS develop a listing of aesthetic criteria as a
method of characterizing sites. What is it about a particular site that
moves us in some emotional way? Are we moved by the presence of large
trees, small dwarfed and gnarled trees that have fought against the
weather, the smell of sassafras, the crinkle of leaves in the autumn? I
would like to ask you to be in charge and coordinate the project. I
would participate, but this is not one of my strengths. I would
envision getting a group of people together to discuss the problem via
mostly off-list emails. I would be glad to help in a more background
role. Postings to the general ENTS discussion list could be made
whenever general input was wanted. First the question of what specific
characteristics affect us. I can see items that we can see or touch or
otherwise interact with our senses, things or events that impact us
positively on a emotional level, and things that require some
intellectual participation - knowing this 8 inch diameter tree is really
250 years old, might be an example. A nice write-up of these qualities
would be one product of the exercise.

Could these aesthetic criteria be given some sort of a numerical value
reflecting their importance in the impact of the forest, grove, or even
individual trees? This is where it get hard. Numbers could be assigned
and evaluated in dozens of ways. There would always be disagreement
about what characteristic was more important and what ones were less
important. Compiling a list would if nothing else provide a starting
point for discussion on the nature of forest aesthetics and I think this
is a worthwhile goal. Two approaches that might be coordinated to make
a workable model for this concept. The MA DCNR rated a number of
criteria with different weights when trying to determine what areas
would be included in the Large Forest Reserves and Small Forest
Reserves. The other is something like Olympic diving. Each dive has a
certain difficulty and the score is based on how well the dive was
performed times the degree of difficulty. Each diver has only so many
dives in a competition and there score reflects their choices of dives.
In a listing of criteria, their may, for example, be thirty distinct
ideas. Some of the criteria will be mutually exclusive, and no site
will have all of the characteristics. So the ranking could be based on
the sum of highest of twenty values for a site. Perhaps the group
considering the question will come up with a better idea of what to do.

The idea of a numerical analysis may seem to be strange, but many
people, particularly those dealing with regulations, rely on numbers as
part of their evaluations. If something can not be quantified, it is
irrelevant to any discussion. Under these circumstances the beauty or
other aesthetic value of a particular tree, grove or wood are never
considered. I would anticipate that no rating system would be
completely satisfactory, but having any ranking system would be far
better than none. This is especially true when dealing with regulatory

Who would I like to see participate? There are a number of people in
the group who are interested in trees and forests, but are not heavily
into measurement. I would like to see people included that perhaps do
not post that often. There is a very large list of people fitting that
criteria. Many people have displayed an artistic bent in posts to the
discussion list. The most important criteria is to have people who want
to participate, even if they can not devote large amounts of time to the
project. .   Maybe someone from outside the organization - Kaeza Fearn
has indirectly been a part of ENTS through her musical contributions to
the concerts. Perhaps a Native American perspective. If nothing else
the effort would provide some good discussions, and I am sure enhance
our own individual forest experiences.

Ed Frank
RE: ENTS Forest Aesthetics Project   tuce-@msn.com
  Dec 08, 2006 08:48 PST 


Sounds like a great project. I myself when in a Forest am
awed at the beauty, serenity and simplicity. To me, it becomes a place
that is for relaxation and contemplation. Many times I've wondered about
the Forests and Land before Man had changed them. It must have been
breathtaking to see the Ancient Forests in North America. We should help
ensure that young people see what a forest is supposed to look like
before their all gone! Passing on our knowledge to them so they can
carry on our dreams of Magnificent Forests. 


RE: ENTS Forest Aesthetics Project   Robert Leverett
  Dec 08, 2006 09:48 PST 


A worthy project and one that could go far. We may find that it
progresses slowly at first. It may take months to get started, but it is
certainly worth a try.

Beauty, being in the eyes of the beholder, will allow several very
different forest forms to be equally attractive/competitive. For
instance, the look and feel of antiquity is likely to be a criteria that
ranks high with everybody, irrespective of whether or not the trees at a
site are large. Similarly, a park-like appearance of a forest has great
appeal, regardless of whether or not the trees are exceptionally old.
Forests with trees of overwhelming size obviously have great aesthetic
appeal. One need not know the numbers to be bowled over by the presence
of trees that dwarf what one ordinarily sees.

   There is an interesting interplay of symmetry with asymmetry that we
need to investigate. Too little symmetry can create an unattractive,
cluttered look. Too much symmetry can be boring. And the list goes on.


Re: Forest Aesthetics Project   doug bidlack
  Dec 08, 2006 15:21 PST 


While I think that what you have proposed is
interesting and worth exploring, I have to admit that
I am more than a bit worried about where this might go
or how it might be used.

One of the things that bothers me is that this adds
more weight to what we humans think is important and
it takes it away from all other species that depend on
the forest. Humans, no matter how kind-hearted or
altruistic, will never be able to give a fair voice to
the many members of the forest community.

Also, who gets to decide on what makes a forest
beautiful? Everyone or some small group? It has
already been pointed out that people tend to like
open, park-like spaces. Does this mean that the
people of Massachusetts would choose to save the
Arnold Arboretum over the last vestiges of old-growth
in the state? What if that small group ends up being
people that think that the most beautiful forest is a
working forest...a very hard working forest?

When I was younger my idea of what made a forest
beautiful was different than today. The more I
learned about forests, from the trees to the streams
that flow through them to the individual insects that
inhabit those forest streams, the more my ideas about
the forest and what made it beautiful changed. In
this case I am talking about a very specific little
forest in southeastern Michigan. It is within a park
called Indian Springs Metropark and it is the origin
of three rivers including the Huron River. I grew up
about 20 miles or so from this park, but only a couple
of miles from the Huron River. I always loved all of
the parks that were formed along the Huron River, but
especially Indian Springs...it seemed the closest to
what the area may have once been like. 

It was always 
nice to walk through the beech-maple forest, but it
was always even more wonderful to see a beautiful
bunch of yellow lady slippers or the nest of a pair of
pileated woodpeckers high in a tulip tree. Anyway,
once I had decided to be an aquatic entomologist, I
thought it would be interesting to see what kind of
aquatic insects lived in the Huron River. Once a
month I collected from April to October over a two
year period. I decided to concentrate on caddisflies
and on the upper reaches of the Huron River,
especially within Indian Springs. I ended up finding
100 caddisfly species within Indian Springs alone.
That is more than a third of the species currently
known to occur in Michigan. Several of these were new
records for the state and one was even a new species.
Now, when I walk through Indian Springs, I see it in a
completely different way. 

Biological diversity was
not a hot topic back in the day when our first
national parks were formed. Yosemite and Yellowstone
and the like were built around awe inspiring scenery
not biological diversity. Sometimes the two go hand
in hand, but not always. Although many unique
geological formations and beautiful mountains were
protected, our grasslands were largely trashed. I
guess what I'm trying to say is that I like the way
the values of people that care about the environment
have changed. They largely mirror my own changes as
I've grown older and learned more along the way.

During the old growth discussion I was just about to
put my two cents in when Lee started in...and between
what he wrote and going back through some
links...well, he pretty much said everything that was
on my mind. The main thing had to do with reference
forests. In other words we should protect the very
best examples of each type of forest ecosystem. This
is essentially what is being attempted among stream
ecologists as well. Protect the very best examples of
each ecosystem and then study it very very well.
Everything else within each ecosystem can then be
compared back to the reference. If we just protect
those forests that we think are most beautiful I fear
that although we may protect most of the remaining
coastal redwood forests, we may also completely lose
many less spectacular forests. That bothers me.


RE: Forest Aesthetics Project   Edward Frank
  Dec 08, 2006 18:10 PST 

Thanks for the comments. These are issues that we need to decide as we
work on the project. From my perspective having a large and diverse
number of species including insects, mosses, ferns, and wildflowers is a
key component of what makes a place special. I would give this aspect a
high rating in any compilation. What form it will take I am not sure.
I think it is worth pursuing. Clearly different people have different
ideas of what should be in any type of criteria. The ideas would not be
those of the general public, but the ideas of those people who
participated in the project, or who provided useful comments to the
process. Given the feelings of ENTS people as a whole, I think the
criteria will be very favorable toward old growth and the goal of
preserving "reference forests."

I would like to see it be used to help preserve unique forests that are
not spectacular. Personally documenting old growth fragments and unique
forest remnants is more important to me than finding the tallest trees.
What I had in mind was having a set of several dozen parameters. Not
every forest would have all the criteria. Unique forests, that are not
spectacular, would have characteristics that made them significant -
unusual assemblages of species, unusual ecosystems, rarity of forest
type - we would need to develop a series of criteria that would address
the special nature of these forests. Then out of the entire listing of
several dozen aspects, the aesthetic rating for the forest would be the
sum of the top 12 or so criteria. In that way forest that are different
in nature could still achieve a ranking based upon their strengths
rather than a list of things that did not apply to them.

How would the rating work. Again I am looking for ideas and input from
others. I am thinking than most criteria would have a rating from 1 to
10. There would be guidelines giving examples of what would constitute
a rating of 6 or 9 or 3. This would allow almost anyone who followed
the guidelines to give a reasonably consistent score for these criteria.
Some would be purely subjective and would vary much more. Again there
could be examples of what was rated how by participants in the project.

To large degree some of the criteria must be based on how a segment of
forest compares to surrounding forests. Maybe some could be couched in
that way. In a area with almost no old growth or intact stands of
forest, a particular grove may be important to preserve even though in a
different region it might only be a marginal example of that type of a
forest community.

It certainly is a complex problem, but I think it is worth attempting.
At the very least we would be exploring this aspect of human/forest
interaction even if a set of evaluation criteria could not be reached by

Ed Frank

RE: Forest Aesthetics Project   Edward Frank
  Dec 08, 2006 18:54 PST 
Doug, Larry, Bob, ENTS,

I am not arguing that this Aesthetic criteria is the only reason to
protect a forest. As Doug suggested, doing so would imply that only
beautiful forests would be preserved. This project would be to develop
another tool to evaluate a forest in a way that could help a deserving
piece of woods might have a better chance of being preserved. 

The other point I wanted to emphasize is that while I called this project 
forest Aesthetics, I meant the term to be broadly interpreted beyond just
beauty so that it would incorporate both aspects of a forest that could
be easily measured as well as those that are more difficult to quantify.
We are doing pretty good on the easily measured parts of the
evaluations (they are still important), but doing lousy on these other
aspects of the forest.    

Ed Frank

RE: ENTS Forest Aesthetics Project   Will Blozan
  Dec 08, 2006 20:16 PST 

Very true...

"There is an interesting interplay of symmetry with asymmetry that we
need to investigate. Too little symmetry can create an unattractive,
cluttered look (.PAULOWNIA). Too much symmetry can be boring (.BRADFORD



RE: Forest Aesthetics Project   Edward Frank
  Dec 09, 2006 19:09 PST 

You wrote: “I honestly don't know what criteria are being used to set
priorities for protecting forests and other habitats. Can you tell me
what types of forest are
not being well served by not using an aesthetic approach?” If you think
about things, all of the forests that are currently protected have been
so because of aesthetic reasons. You spoke of your changing
perspectives on Indian Springs Park and your caddisfly diversity
experiments. Why is it important that an area has a high species
diversity? Why should we study a particular area? What are we
accomplishing by doing these studies?

You wrote: “The main thing had to do with reference forests… we should
protect the very best examples of each type of forest ecosystem and then
study it very very well. “
Say there was a unique riparian forest in Arkansas. It represents the
last 2% of a once large forest. You would therefore want it preserved
as a reference forest. For what purpose? If all the other examples of
this forest type were cut down, what value would you find in studying
this particular patch? Why don’t you just cut it down, because then it
would be gone, and there would no longer be a question of whether to
preserve it or not. There is the commonly used catch phrase that maybe
there is a gene in one of the organisms inhabiting the forest that could
cure cancer, or similar great accomplishment. That is a rather esoteric
goal that likely will not be true.

We have placed a certain value in our own minds in having a site with a
high species diversity. It is a value judgment, not something written
in shining lights that we must do for our own survival. Some areas have
the tallest tree of a particular species and therefore have been
preserved partially because of that presence. Why is the tallest tree
more important than any other example of that species? Again this is a
value judgment - people are impressed by the biggest, oldest, tallest
examples of things. Because they have these characteristics they are in
some way special and we feel are deserving of protection. We are using
these numbers to justify in some way a value judgment that we have made.
But the reason we are preserving the area is because we are impressed
by the characteristics of these trees. We preserve areas because we
want future generations to be able to experience them as we do today.
Again this is a judgment we are making based upon an intellectual
decision and an emotional decision, rather than some discrete value
based upon the numbers. The numbers are being used as a tool to justify
a decision we are making based on what are essentially aesthetic

Why should we look at things based upon only on numbers, while they
themselves are tools to represent the real reason we want to preserve an
area? The spotted owl was used as a tool to help preserve old-growth
forests in the Pacific northwest. The snail darter was used to block
filling of the Tellico Dam. They were tools to achieve these ends.
There have been many jokes about these particular items, but they were

Looking at forests and trees based upon aesthetic criteria is an
exploration of the nature of human interaction with forests. This
interaction may take many forms ranging from a resource to be harvested,
as something to be admired and explored, as something with an emotional
impact, or even as spiritual resource as we commune with nature. I
believe this exploration in and of itself is a worthwhile goal.

As a final comment (today anyway) on the merits of an aesthetic
evaluation, I believe that evaluating a forest on the basis of
aesthetics is as valid of an approach as any other. Because it is not
based upon some numerical evaluation does not make it any less important
or significant.

Edward Frank

RE: Forest Aesthetics Project   foresto-@npgcable.com
  Dec 10, 2006 05:32 PST 

Have you chosen to ignore mainstream forest ecology and take on the
cloak of the devil's advocate, when you opined:

   "We have placed a certain value in our own minds in having a site 
with ahigh species diversity. It is a value judgment..."?

I'm not one to take unnecessary umbrance, but there's whole
disciplines and texts bountifully supporting the notion of biological
diversity and it's role in a forest (or other) ecosystem...we, living
in our respective urban dwellings may not see the survival value of a
self-perpetuating ecosystem (as enabled in part by the resilience of
biological diversity/species diversity), but cast us out into an
ecosystem without such resilience...

Re: Forest Aesthetics Project   Edward Frank
  Dec 10, 2006 11:46 PST 


I guess I am playing devil's advocate. I am trying to elicit responses to
the idea of an aesthetics project. I do appreciate the work that is being
done by forest ecologists. I am not sure that most people understand or
appreciate this work, but yet many people want to preserve these areas for
their children and descendents. This is because they see the value these
areas for their own right, even without the ecological arguments. For these
people, and I believe they are a majority, want to preserve these areas
simply because they want to do so, because they feel it is the right thing
to do. That does not make the ecological arguments unimportant, but whether
or not these reasons exist independently, people still want to preserve
them, and they are grasping at straws to find any excuse to do so.

So many of the arguments for or against preservation is a battle of words
and terminology. I am not arguing that species diversity is not important,
but that its importance varies with your world view. We have lost numerous
species like the passenger pigeon that once would darken the skies with
their flights. Has civilization fallen to pieces because of the loss of
this species? Large areas are commercially farmed with tightly controlled
plantings. The original ecosystem found in these areas pre-agriculture is
completely gone. Has human civilization fallen? If the redwood forests
were cut down, would California fall into the sea?

So the argument exists as to whether "species diversity" is something we
must have to prevent the decline and fall of human civilization, is it
something we must have for our survival as a species, or is it something we
want to preserve for its own sake? So I am not ignoring mainstream forest
ecology, I am simply asking the question why are these things important.
Many of the arguments I have read arguing for the value of species diversity
seem more to be based upon a shared precept of faith - they want diversity
to be important - rather than on an actual critical need. Every aspect of
the natural world can not be controlled by people. The question is how
complex do the ecosystems need to be to maintain their basic functions as
they impact humanity?

If the loss of some degree of species diversity will not noticeably affect
our day to day lives, then preserving that diversity must be a value
judgment based upon the idea we WANT to prevent that diversity.

Ed Frank
RE: Forest Aesthetics Project   Miles Lowry
  Dec 11, 2006 11:51 PST 
I think aesthetics as one of the criteria serves a political purpose...legislatures are inclined to respond to "beauty", whatever that is, more than numbers. Preservation is a political process, supported to some degree by quantification.

Miles Lowry
521 South Gables
Wheaton Illinois 60187

RE: Forest Aesthetics Project   Edward Frank
  Dec 11, 2006 12:29 PST 


I am afraid your response was somewhat mutilated by the system. I
believe this is what you said below?

I agree with your assessment. I would like to invite you, Doug, Bob,
Larry, Don and anyone else interested in the project to email me, either
through the list or to my individual email  and we can plan the next steps
we need to take.

Ed Frank
Re: Forest Aesthetics Project   shamr-@aol.com
  Dec 13, 2006 08:05 PST 

Losing the passenger pigeon, turning parts of forests into tree plantations or even cutting down all the redwoods will not likely lead to the end of human civilization. Though if you cut all the redwood forests, certain parts of California would, indeed, fall into the sea. But, despite decades of research no one can say for sure what the effects of any one of these things will have on ecosystem health and the long term health of our own species. Add all these actions together, and the thousands of similar ones we commit each day, and the possible outcome becomes even less clear. Just because our civilization has not yet collapsed from our actions does not mean that it wont. We know so little about the complex interactions in our environment. To wantonly or accidentally remove entire species without this knowledge is reckless. The truly conservative approach is to protect as many species as possible at the very least until we understand how their loss will effect the big picture.

Now that I am back in Vermont I am amazed to see again just how hammered and unhealthy the forest is. Is there still beauty to be found? Of course. But will that beauty survive over time in forests that are being dramatically manipulated in ways that they have not had time to adapt to? Maybe, but that is a gamble I would rather not take.

I think a discussion of forest aesthetics is a worthy endeavor. I worry about how it might be applied in a rating system. Many of the things you describe as aesthetically pleasing are actually a factor of biodiversity. The reason why a stunted mountain top forest can be as appealing to many as the giant redwoods is due to the diversity of species adapting to live in their unique habitats. I think aesthetics already carry a significant weight in forest management. It is the forests that are aesthetically pleasing that tend to get the most protection. People are far more likely to object to the logging of a majestic redwood forest than a dry scrub oak forest. Protecting forests that have unique, and often attractive, characteristics is important but so is protecting forest connectivity and diversity. I would like to see a system that takes all these factors into account.

Re: Forest Aesthetics Project   Andrew Joslin
  Dec 13, 2006 11:03 PST 

Following on the excellent comment from Tim I think a goal of the forest
aesthetics project could be to broaden the general public's idea of what
makes a beautiful forest. For instance many people might find their local
predominant forest type mundane because they are so used to it. This
devalues the forest in their mind and makes it easier for developers and
commercially oriented forest managers to take advantage. It might take a
fresh perspective to demonstrate the aesthetic beauty of a given forest
type or location that is taken for granted. Aesthetics appreciation has a
great effect on perceived value and therefore is very important to forest
preservation even if it is not based on biological data.
RE: Forest Aesthetics Project   Robert Leverett
  Dec 13, 2006 13:22 PST 

Ed, Andrew, Tim, and others,

   One point to consider as we discuss aesthetics is that what makes
forests special to a lot of people is the element of mystery they feel
when in a forest. Some of us like believing that the myriad of forest
processes that we don't understand, and which proceed on different
spatial and temporal scales that we cannot easily grasp, will keep us in
a state of unknowing for a very long time and protect the great forest
mystery. As we learn more about forest processes, and one by one, the
mysteries disappear, often so does the magic and respect for nature. It
doesn't have to happen that way, but sometimes it does. One way to
regain respect and recover our sense of awe is through artistic
rendering of forests. Members of the Hudson School of Art like Thomas
Cole and Frederic Church were expert in translating the mystery of the
forest on to canvass. Just some wandering thoughts.

RE: Forest Aesthetics Project   Edward Frank
  Dec 13, 2006 16:20 PST 


I would like to see a criteria developed, encompassed by the broad
umbrella of aesthetics, that would emphasize the concepts of species
diversity, and beauty in the surfacially ugly stunted or unappealing
forests. The idea would be to phrase the guidelines so that the unique
qualities of these forests could be counted on a scale comparable to
that of the "prettier" forests. I think more areas might be preserved
if we could give those people making the decisions something to point at
and say - Using this criteria there is a reason to preserve the forest.
If the forest did not score well on the aesthetics scale, especially if
we weight it toward areas with higher species diversity and unique or
special characteristics, then the scale may be a negative. But in any
case even a low aesthetics score does not preclude arguments in favor of
the forest based upon other criteria.

Re: Forest Aesthetics Project   Edward Frank
  Dec 13, 2006 16:21 PST 


I must disagree with you on this point. As you learn more about a
particular subject, I find generally that as you discover more things you do
not know about it. You become interested in details or paths you would not
have even thought about previously. Knowledge broadens your outlook and the
scope of things to be fascinated about. Second, I don't think knowledge
lessens appreciation for things you do understand. Different types of
music, artwork, or cuisine are often tastes that are learned. You can
appreciate a good wine more when you learn enough to distinguish it from

Ed Frank
RE: Forest Aesthetics Project   Edward Frank
  Dec 13, 2006 16:22 PST 


I agree with your comments completely. Do you have any specific ideas
or suggestions?

Re: Forest Aesthetics Project   shamr-@aol.com
  Dec 14, 2006 06:44 PST 

I have done a tiny bit of hiking in the Adirondacks but most of my experience is from Western Mass. Vermont and NH as well as the ridgetops along the AT. In Vermont I worked as a Ranger/Naturalist and discovered many magical pockets of stunted, undisturbed forest. I find those stunted and contorted trees to be every bit as inspiring as the majestic redwoods in the west.


-----Original Message-----
From: Fores-@aol.com
Sent: Wed, 13 Dec 2006 7:08 PM
Subject: Re: Forest Aesthetics Project


Sounds like you've hiked some in the Adirondacks or Mt. Wachusett. They are certainly places to go looking for stunted old growth.

Re: Forest Aesthetics Project   shamr-@aol.com
  Dec 14, 2006 06:55 PST 
Ed and ENTS,

It sounds like we are coming from similar places in respect to our definition of aesthetics as a broadly inclusive set of factors. I would like to see any rating system developed by ENTS to be as broad as possible. Working with various state and federal agencies I have seen first hand just how many decisions are based on one narrow set of criteria, completely ignoring other equally important factors. It is the combination of scientists, naturalists, and forest lovers that makes ENTS such a unique and encompassing group of people. It would be great to see a rating system that took advantage of our entire base of knowledge, understanding and appreciation.

A few years ago, Massachusetts completed a large and relatively comprehensive analysis designed to rate undeveloped lands throughout the state. The work was done mostly in GIS and created an index rating parcels of land based largely on the proportion of threatened and endangered species as well as other environmental factors. It might be good to look at the materials from this project for some ideas.

The biggest shortcoming of their project was that they did not come up with a formula to rate connectivity of the parcels. Connectivity is an important aesthetic component to me. To stand in a piece of forest and know that I could walk for miles without running into signs of civilization gives me a special feeling that I can not get in a tiny patch of forest regardless of how beautiful it is. Then of course there are the many scientific reasons for maintaining connectivity.

I know you envisioned this project from the perspective of aesthetics. The more I learn and experience, the more I see an aesthetic appreciation of beauty and sound scientific research as two different ways of looking at the same thing. I understand Bob's concerns of loosing the magic in the science. It is easy to forget to appreciate the forest when you are running around trying to measure it and solve all its mysteries. But there is plenty of magic to be found in the details if you remember to slow down long enough to appreciate it. Would ENTS be open to a rating system that combined aesthetics with science? Perhaps those 30 categories you proposed could include both facets?

Re: Forest Aesthetics Project   Edward Frank
  Dec 14, 2006 19:08 PST 

I am not opposed to the idea. That is what I want these discussions to be about. The problem I have seen in most definitions is that they try to give fixed numbers like this many trees per acre have these characteristics, or this particular age structure. The types of forests we are dealing with across the country are so diverse that if we fall into the trap of defining specific numbers, those numbers will not work for different forest types. The numbers for many of the definitions need to be determined site specific for that forest to be reasonable and they need to be considered in the context of the nature of the surrounding areas. A so-so forest in one area might be impressive in another depending on the status of the surrounding forests. If we can figure out a way to make it work that is great. We need to figure out a PROCESS to determine what is significant in terms of diversity, or size, or age structure for a specific forest type and within the context of the surrounding forest, and a scale to characterize how well a particular site fits those criteria rather than a hard set of numbers to be arbitrarily applied whether they are appropriate or not. I am not sure how to do this....YET

Ed Frank
Re: Forest Aesthetics Project   Edward Frank
  Dec 14, 2006 21:26 PST 

In these posts I want to make sure it is understood that I want to find a fair way to evaluate these forests. I am not looking for one that will say every forest is great. If I had the money to purchase 500 acres, which of these forests would be the best choice to purchase. I know we have been talking about things that would give a forest a high score, but they might also give a particular one a poor score as well.

Ed Frank
Re: Forest Aesthetics Project   shamr-@aol.com
  Dec 15, 2006 04:56 PST 

I completely agree that a purely numbers based system is not the way to go. Just as importantly no forest should be judged solely on its current state. A system where forests are judged on what they are, were and could be in the future is very important. Trying to Lock any forest into its current stage would be a mistake. Forests evolve over time and we should let them and perhaps in some cases even help them.

A list of characteristics that are not based on a single set of numbers but on a value that is arrived at by comparing a piece of forest to others on a local, regional, and geographical scale would be the way to go in my opinion. Of course that is easier said than done.

Re: Forest Aesthetics Project   Michele Wilson
  Dec 15, 2006 06:53 PST 

Well, on every wood sale I prepare, there is a layer of aesthetics added.
All of my clients love attention being paid to aesthetics, even if they
don't know it yet. For example, if you're up this way, I'll introduce you
to Garth Girth, his wife Gertie Girth, and their progeny Gerthilites (who
somehow became Greek). They are just one "family" of huge white pines being
retained on one particular forest in my region... simply because they are
gorgeous if not "perfect" potential timber trees. The fact that they'll all
likely also provide some seed over the next few decades is a fringe benefit!
Re: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics"   Fores-@aol.com
  Dec 16, 2006 21:27 PST 
Bob and Gary:

The topic of this discussion has occupied untold thousands of hours of
thought during my nearly 35 years alone (mostly) in the woods assessing woodlands,
inventorying for forest management plans and preparing timber sales on
private property. (Robinson State Park Meeting Dec 12, 2006)

I think the entire area of thought you are touching on wraps perfectly with
the ongoing aesthetics thread and I encourage you guys to keep rolling on.
Aesthetics, diversity, vigor and resilience are all words that work well
together. I would only like to remind people that each one of those words,
especially when applied to natural resource management is a science unto itself.
Throw in words like sustainable, climate change, fragmentation, invasives and
economics that are (thought to be) sciences unto themselves into the mix and
you have a complex issue....

Life in the forest is an ever evolving situation. For every forested place
I can remember from my youth as either impressive or especially aesthetic
most are significantly changed...not by logging but by time.

Keep up the effort....

Here is a recent passage from an e-mail to a friend late last week.   It is
all in a days' work for a dirt forester and I couldn't imagine being forced to
work a job that didn't present an occasional challenge.

December 9 weather report....We had snow when the cold front came through on
Thursday. I was working in the mountains of Webster County about 1/2 hour
east of Flatwoods, WV. When I drove to the job in the morning it was sunny,
the temperature was 30 degrees and the ground was dry.

At 10:00 is was still sunny. Around 11:00 it clouded up.   At about 11:30 a
few flakes started to fall. By noon the ground was white.

When I quit for lunch at 1:00 there was an inch of snow and I put on my wool
coat...I gobbled down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that tasted really
good and went back to timber marking.

At about 1:30 I started to have trouble seeing because my glasses were
getting snowed on..by 1:45 there was about 2".

By the time I quit marking timber at about 2:10 a wind had come up and all
the snow that had piled up on the limbs and tree tops started to blow. There
were a few whiteouts when I couldn't see 50'....by then the ground had
started to freeze and it was getting slippery so I had to quit...anyhow, it took me
half an hour to walk the 1/2 mile to the truck because the ground got so

When I got to the truck and turned it on I noticed the temperature had
dropped to 14 degrees.

I only mention that because on Friday I went back there and for the first
time in a year I wore my long johns. In spite of being sunny all day long, it
was 16 degrees when I parked in the sun and 12 when I got back to the truck
after sunset.

In December...happiness can be getting to your truck before dark.

Russ Richardson
Re: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics" and Aesthetics   shamr-@aol.com
  Dec 17, 2006 06:11 PST 
Russ, Ed, Gary, and all;

I love the idea of wrapping the concepts of "ecologics" and aesthetics together. I believe that Ed and Gary's goals overlap in many ways and converge to cover my concerns for looking at forests in a much more holistic manner. Science is often a way of quantifying what we already, at least partially, understand. Intuitive feelings are often just understandings that we have not yet figured out how to scientifically measure. Combining the understandings of science with the intuitive feelings of folks who spend significant time in the forest could create a more encompassing, progressive and effective means of forest preservation and management.

I know some scientists will be very uncomfortable with the touchy feely aspects of aesthetics just as many non-scientists will distrust the numbers and formulas of science. But, I can't think of a better way to increase public awareness, understanding, and involvement than by combining both these aspects into a new way of describing the importance of forested ecosystems.

Re: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics" and Aesthetics   Don Bertolette
  Dec 17, 2006 17:05 PST 
Just a quick thought in response to your post...on aesthetics, because it's so subjective, it will be difficult to find consensus across any broad spectrum of population...over the last decade here in Northern Arizona, it became apparent to me that the greatest inertia faced by the "Flagstaff Plan" was due to what people were used to. Folks have been come up (5000' elevation gain) to Flagstaff from Phoenix (125 miles) for generations (let's say 125 years, to cover living family memories). 100 years ago, historical records recount miles of open, park-like stands of Ponderosa where several teams (of horses) could ride through side by side. Those recounting those stands (Northern Arizona has the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest, even now) now doubt found them aesthetic (as would most of us on this forum). Move ahead on the time continuum (50 years), and responding to the "perfect storm" of conditions (ideal combination of seed production, moisture regime, and soil temperature causing a pulse of vegetation) that happened to be followed by unusually moist and warm weather over that whole period (50 years). The forest that was once open and park-like is now filling up with regeneration optimally fueled.

The human population has begun to increase and with the advent of the Interstate, large populations begin to pass through this extensive forest. 1950's children and adults are beginning to see (and now recall) a much denser forest.

Today, the stands remaining untreated, are thick "dog-hair" thickets. The old-growth ponderosas left from the turn of the century logging, are now being severely out-competed, and with diminishing moisture (competition plus more than a decade of significant drought) and nutrients (competition), and unnaturally high mortality in old-growth is occurring. Getting the Flagstaff Plan in place took working with the public to realize that the full dense forests they had gotten used to over the last 20-30 years, wasn't so much aesthetically pleasing as much as it was a conflagration waiting to happen.

I suspect that similar situations exist in New England...folks are used to the third/fourth growth unmanaged forests of today, and may find them more aesthetic than the woods they replaced (I'm thinking of the Fisher Dioramas at Harvard Forest).

I agree though, when you pass through earlier seral stages into later successions, the older more undisturbed stands will often have more 'universal' appeal.
PS: After a quick review, I intend to post a repost to above ramblings...we must be careful about 'anthropomorphizing the autopoetic' (spelling Gary?)!!!
Re: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics" and Aesthetics   Edward Frank
  Dec 17, 2006 18:08 PST 

Anthropomorphizing forests - if we are to talk about aesthetics perhaps a little anthropomorphizing is needed..... Actually reaching a consensus across a broad spectrum of the population is not my goal, but to achieve some guidelines that are workable from among the ENTS members and other interested parties.

RE: Forest Aesthetics Project   Steve Galehouse
  Dec 17, 2006 19:28 PST 


For me, much of the aesthetic appeal is derived from the associated
flora of a woodland--in the woods of central Ontario, where I'm most
familiar anymore, not much can compare with the ethereal scent of
Twinflower in bloom in an old stand of Red Pine, or the aroma of
Sweetfern along a portage trail, or when grabbing on to a branch of
Sweet Gale along a lakeshore. The trees are the main event, the "cake";
the other more subtle plants are the "icing".

I'm not sure one can quantify such a subjective rating, but if I'd love
to be involved, and am certainly willing to give it a try if you feel I
can help.

Re: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics" and Aesthetics   shamr-@aol.com
  Dec 18, 2006 05:23 PST 
Don, and all;

I don't think we should be shooting for a set of aesthetic criteria that the general public can agree upon. Most people have been so conditioned to the look of increasingly unhealthy forests that they have no idea of just how beautiful a healthy forest can be.

We should work to develop a set of categories that will help the public better see the beauty of a healthy, functioning forest. This system should also give land managers some guidelines on how to manage forests to produce a healthy forest aesthetic as well as provide conservation groups with a way of better prioritizing their preservation efforts.

Here are a few of the categories I have thought of so far:

Unique habitat types
Old growth stands
Multi age class forests
Rare species
Forest type representation
Forest size
Wildlife habitat

Each of these categories should have a broad definition of how to evaluate it. Then perhaps a rating system could be developed that would take into account several factors in each category. These factors should include items that rate the importance of a specific category to the location in which the forest is found (i.e does this forest represent a type that is under represented in the local area or rare in the region?, etc.).

Not all the categories should be weighted equally. It would be up to local land managers and conservation groups to decide which categories are most important to the forests they are looking at.

You may notice that I did not include biodiversity as a category. There are two reasons for this. First, I think many of the categories we would develop will collectively cover the concept of biodiversity and how that diversity is aesthetically appealing to us and good for forest health. More importantly I am beginning to see the concept of biodiversity being abused by land managers. Here in Vermont there is a huge push to promote both research and management designed to produce early successional stands in all managed forests. For those of you who have not been to Vermont lately, there is absolutely no shortage of early successional habitat throughout the vast majority of the state. Promoting early successional stands in the currently recovering mid-successional forests is being pushed for by hunters who are unhappy if they can't shoot a deer or grouse by stepping out there back door, loggers who want an environmentally friendly excuse to cut down big trees, and biologists who for some reason believe we should maintain the species mix and abundance that was created by clear cutting over 75% of the forests over the last two centuries.


Musings with Don Bertolette   Robert Leverett
  Dec 18, 2006 05:35 PST 

   Your points are well taken. With respect to comparisons between the
northern Arizona situation and New England, our old friend Joe Zorzin
would likely change your word "unmanaged" to "mismanaged" as a result of
rampant and persistent high grading in the New England woodlands. But
regardless, of which term best applies, it makes places like Robinson SP
more conspicuous and important, especially in the areas where the larger
trees dominate. Interestingly, growing larger trees is one rationale
given by DCR for their harvesting plan. They would reduce the number of
small, intervening stems to give more space to the larger, better formed
trees. However, as regeneration reached head height and more, the
cluttered appearance would return. However, there is a stage where
regeneration is 3 to 5 feet high and mixed between fairly widely spaced
mature trees that is rather aesthetic. I've noticed the effect more with
conifers, though. Bruce Spencer masterfully achieved the effect in
Quabbin in a number of areas. Bruce has an eye for beauty and symmetry,
whether or not it is his conscious intention to achieve a particular

   As we would both agree, aesthetic appeal in eastern woodlands is
often a complex mix that includes some symmetry, but not too much,
differentiated color schemes (beech, birch, pines, etc.). Large trees
are usually a plus, but if obscured by clutter from shrubs and young
trees, their impact is reduced. We humans do like that park-like
appearance. The Vermont woodlands with their ground layer of herbs and
ferns and abundance of hemlock and sugar maple can often be very
attractive with only modest sized trees. If a body of water is present,
the aesthetic effect can be multiplied.

   What pleases some of us most is the gestalt effect of water, sky,
mountain, and forest. There are so many combinations that distilling the
elements and analyzing them individually can miss the point. It is the
combination. More on this later.


Back to Russ   Robert Leverett
  Dec 18, 2006 05:52 PST 


Absolutely great account of your experiences in the WV woods. You
present us with a tantalizing mix of subjects that calls into service
your observation skills, your strong work ethic as a true woodsman, and
your obvious love of beauty. The disciplines you mention with their
separate vocabularies feed our notions of what needs to happen or not
happen in the forest to include earning an honest living while enjoying
the beauty and diversity of Mother Nature suggests the stuff of a weekly
column. Please do give us more musings from the WV woodlands. I'll bet
the entire ENTS membership would love to see a weekly input from you on
your WV forest experiences. Any chance of that happening?

Re: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics" and Aesthetics   doug bidlack
  Dec 18, 2006 20:04 PST 


I don't like the idea of throwing biodiversity out.

You don't throw out an idea because it is used
incorrectly; you throw out the incorrect use of the

Biodiversity may indeed be increased on a small scale
by creating more 'edge' habitat, for example, but the
biodiversity over a larger scale will ultimately be
reduced. It is simply a matter of scale.


Re: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics" and Aesthetics   Don Bertolette
  Dec 19, 2006 01:23 PST 

I agree with both of you on different points...I think that bio-diversity
needs to still stay in, we just have to realize that
Biodiversity does not necessarily equal managed early successional habitat.

I'd go a step further and say that Bob L has done an absolutely wonderful
job of bringing the attention to all of us, the wonderful world of
old-growth. I think what is needed is to continue with the concept of
old-growth, and begin assessing the understory that is perhaps equally as
wonderful, and more to the point, essential in our understanding of the
workings of an old-growth ecosystem....I know that the usage of the phrase
"old-growth ecosystem" will come under fire, but so be it until CONSENSUS is
arrived at for a better/more accurate phrase. I'd like to think that the
already excellent trip reports, would increase understory plant association
writeups...so as to more fully 'define' old-growth ecosystems.
Back to Don   Robert Leverett
  Dec 19, 2006 05:33 PST 


   When I first started stumbling around in the old growth, I tried to
observe ground plant associations that suggested that I was in an area
of old growth. What I observed mostly as a distinguishing feature was
the state of development of various plant assemblages as opposed to
presence or absence of species. However, with the onset of the earthworm
invasion, I fear that what may have been identifying ground plant
characteristics will increasingly be lost. Now that Lee has sensitized
us to the magnitude and widespread state of the problem, I'm finding the
little beggars everywhere. Has anyone a recipe for fried earthworms
(sauté in butter and garlic?) that they'd care to share?   

Re: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics" and Aesthetics   shamr-@aol.com
  Dec 19, 2006 05:38 PST 

I was certainly not suggesting that the concept of biodiversity be thrown out from forest aesthetics or eco-logics. If you look at my starter list of categories you will notice that biodiversity is strongly represented, just not in a distinct category of its own. In fact, given the list of categories I think we would develop, the term biodiversity would be redundant.

I agree it is a matter of scale. A naturally occurring mature red pine forest growing on a kame terrace may not be diverse in itself but it does add diversity to the regional ecosystem. That is why here in Vermont it would get high marks in the "unique habitat type" category. Bearberry willow (salix uva ursi), is an extremely rare alpine shrub in Vermont so the areas it occurs in might get high marks in the "rare species" category. When considering the other associated species and the very small area they occur in, this "forest" type would also get high marks in the "unique habitat type" category. In New York this shrub and habitat are much more common so they may score a little lower. Both these forest types may also score high marks in the "forest type representation" category if they contribute to the proper balance of historical/evolved/evolving forest types preserved throughout the region.

This way the concept of biodiversity is well covered with less risk of people confusing regional biodiversity with stand biodiversity. It is the different facets of biodiversity and the uniqueness they create that I find aesthetically pleasing.

Re: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics" and Aesthetics   Edward Frank
  Dec 19, 2006 06:14 PST 
Doug, Tim, Bob,

What we really are looking at now seems to me to be a guidebook on forest assessment, with perhaps a summary index or series of indexes to provide a numerical output(s).

Re: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics" and Aesthetics   shamr-@aol.com
  Dec 19, 2006 06:19 PST 

As much as I love trees, when I think of forests it is all the other inhabitants that peak my imagination and enhance my sense of wonder. Now, in some ways, the trees are just the frames through which I see everything else. When amongst the redwoods of California I find my eyes constantly being drawn to the lush green patches of ferns and sorrel. Here in Vermont it is the carpets of moss and lichen that cover the rocks and downed logs in thick carpets.

I think trees get the bulk of attention because they are the first thing that people can recognize and learn, amongst the cacophony of other life. When I hiked the AT I knew nothing about the forests. Even the trees were just the walls of a great green tunnel. Now all those trees jump out at me as individuals. But, I am still slowly struggling to recognize the individuals scattered about my feet even though my eyes can see the beauty they create together.

When thinking of aesthetics and biodiversity we need to make sure we consider the micro habitats existing beneath those wonderful trees and the countless plants and animals that rely upon them.

Re: Back to Don   Don Bertolette
  Dec 19, 2006 22:27 PST 

While it wasn't what I was originally thinking about, collecting old-growth
understory response to earthworms may be just as important, as its
association with 'old-growth' ecosystems...
Re: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics" and Aesthetics   shamr-@aol.com
  Dec 20, 2006 06:20 PST 

A guide to aesthetic and ecologically sound forest conservation and management practices might prove to be a valuable resource for local and regional  conservation groups. These groups often struggle with how to allocate their limited resources as well as understanding how to best manage the forests they already have protected.

RE: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics" and Aesthetics   Edward Frank
  Dec 20, 2006 15:00 PST 

Tim, Everyone else.

At this point I would like to focus on developing a guidebook for groups to use to assess what forests might be worth spending their resources to purchase or protect or not. A guide to forest conservation management is another project entirely. It is a worthwhile project to be sure, but not the one I want to achieve at this stage.

Ed Frank
Back to aesthetics   Robert Leverett
  Dec 28, 2006 08:02 PST 


I've been thinking about what the rest of you have been saying about
forest aesthetics as I sort through my own thoughts. I've been
discussing forest aesthetics with philosopher and environmental ethicist
John Knuerr who is a walking encyclopedia on those lofty subjects. John
moves through a zone of rarified air, discussing the state of humans in
nature with no less than the likes of world famous eco-theologian Thomas
Berry. Flatteringly to me, John and I are often in agreement on the
condition of human kind and sources of our wisdom (or lack thereof)
despite the different directions from which we may approach issues. I
usually fly into our discussion "by the seat of my pants". John's
approach is disciplined and scholarly.

We both agree that a key element in forest aesthetics is maintaining a
level of respect that derives from an illusive feeling of mystery.
Perhaps the feeling is from a well-spring of fear. One must not anger
the gods of the volcano. I previously approached the respect aspect of
forest aesthetics by suggesting that we may come to know so much about
the forest (or certain aspects of it) that we lose respect. Obviously,
this doesn't always happen, but it can. BTW, I'm not suggesting that the
antidote is to remain ignorant. I'm just exploring the notion that
appreciation does not necessarily increase as factual knowledge is

I've been impressed with Russ Richardson's deep appreciation for the
West Virginia forests. He retains respect and appreciation while
concurrently earning his living from the forest. I think Russ has much
to say about forest aesthetics and I look forward to his sharing his
thoughts with us, hopefully on a more frequent basis. I think Will Fell
has the same kind of appreciation and connection to forests. I hope we
can hear more from Will. And the same is true of Michele Wilson. Michele
has her own system for tuning in and she passes her appreciation on to
the landowners she serves. In general, I am curious about how resource
specialists and shift between different states of mind when thinking
about forests.

As to individual tree aesthetics, I still carry the image of the Magic
Maple with me from Christmas Day. The red maple that I reported on has
it all. It has superb symmetry, significant height and size for the
species, location, etc., the works. It is a picture of health. It
carries itself with pride. Yet, somewhere, I know, there is a
diminutive, gnarly red maple hanging on in an austere environment that
is as aesthetic as the Magic Maple. Both will be equally aesthetic but
opposites in the attributes chosen to highlight each. When standing in
the presence of the Magic Maple, I don't want to apply any kind of
criteria to the gorgeous tree. Yet, to garner appreciation for the tree
in the eyes of officialdom, I would gladly do it.

There are places that I visit in the East where an intuitively computed
aesthetics score would be very high, were I asked to supply one. I
remember such a place in western North Carolina's Linville Gorge. The
following description of it is from the "Jani Book". I present it in the
interest of furthering our thinking about aesthetics.

The Hotel in the Forest:

I once took Jani and an artist lady from nearby Asheville on a trek into
the wild and scenic Linville Gorge. The objective was an off trail jaunt
to show Jani and our friend a place of great power, a spot on a small
stream that lies hidden in a dense stand of rhododendron. I chose the
spot as one that I thought would evoke our friend’s desire to explore
the mystical side of old growth forests.
Our artist friend was a slightly built woman in her mid-forties who
explained to us that she combined her artistic talents with her passion
for trees in creative ways that blended her dual Native American and
Celtic leanings. She specifically wanted to visit some centuries old
trees that she had read about in an article that I had written for the
Katuah Journal, an environmental publication with a mix of apocalyptic
and upbeat messages along with precise prescriptions for holistic

Our trail in Linville started at the National Park Service parking lot
and for a short distance wound its way through a dry upland forest of
mixed hardwoods and conifers. The first stretch of the trail gave little
hint of the luxuriance that lies deep within the gorge. Gnarly chestnut,
white, and red ridgetop oaks reflected the zone of dryness and gave
little hint that stately tuliptrees and white pines grow near the bottom
of the gorge. After passing through a stretch of small, stunted trees
with frequent fire scares, we began our descent into a wetter world. The
trees became noticeably larger, thrusting their long trunks upward
through thick mist - a common occurrence in the mornings throughout the
southern Appalachians. The mist imparted a feeling of mystery to the
woodlands - a feeling that I hoped would be experienced by our artist
friend. I knew the feeling well. For me it is an attribute of fog or
cloud-enshrouded forests.
We had not descended far into the gorge, when I signaled to the others
that it was time to leave the safety of the trail and follow the small
stream that crossed our path. The stream emerged from a cove opening up
to our left. Our artist friend looked both surprised and delighted as we
bent low and snaked our way into what must have first appeared as an
impenetrable tangle of rhododendron. Jani showed no surprise at my
sudden plunge into the heath,. She had been down that trail with me many
times before and often told friends that “Bob has never met a trail that
he liked.”

Once inside the green, the customary trail sounds were quickly
scattered. In dense rhododendron, the loss of trail sounds happens so
quickly that the change can be startling. Where does the cacophony of
human sounds go? For me, deflection and absorption of human sound by
leaves, stems, and the mist is a merciful gift of forest gods who are
unimpressed by self-indulgent human chatter. Looking at Jani and our
friend, I bade good riddance to trail noise. I then started to comfort
them, as civilization receded, but my efforts were unneeded as a
fascinating new world opened up to the group. It was a world of green
luxuriance that brought back memories of the jungles of far east Asia,
especially of Jani’s and my two years on that tropical island paradise
of Taiwan, known to the Portugese in the 1600s as Ilha Formosa, the
beautiful island.

The going was slow as we twisted our bodies over, under, and around the
entanglement of rhododendron. Southern mountaineers call such places
laurel hells. Oddly, the mountaineers give the name laurel to
rhododendron and ivy to laurel. Mountaineer knowledge of botany is

At the time, I suspect that our friend might have been wondering what
she had committed herself to do, but soon we reached a little spot on
the stream, the spot I was aiming for where a surprise awaited Jani and
our artist friend. A large centuries-old black gum with alligator bark
abruptly appeared through the mist. It immediately captured the
attention of both women. We had surely entered the abode of hobbits,
fairies, and woodland elves. As I observed Jani and our friend gazing at
the black gum, it was clear to me that I needed to silence my urge to
lecture and let the spot work its magic.

Once the chatter of surface consciousness is hushed, in such places,
one’s deeper imagination takes over and fantasizing becomes the natural
process of a healthy mind. One imagines oneself in a woodland filled
with magic far beyond the ordinary world left behind. For us, it was as
though the rhododendron was a camouflaged curtain through which we had
passed into a place where the creative side of our beings was suddenly
released. Here the bonds of the materialistic world imbued with its own
self-importance and determined to dominate the affairs of mortals held
no sway. We had entered the world of imagination, of dreams.

We sat at the foot of the old black gum. I estimated that it had seen no
fewer than half a millennia’s worth of summer-winter cycles. Aware of
the time, I arose and announced that there was more to see. We
continued. A short distance from the gnarly blackgum, almost invisible
in the tangle of heath, a huge, centuries-old tuliptree reared its
shaggy crown fully 130 feet above the dense entanglement below. We made
our way almost to its base before the ladies saw it. Our artist friend
squealed with delight. The great poplar looked wise, the forest’s voice
of experience. Its hulking form was proof of how a curtain of
rhododendron can conceal even the largest of objects. One’s reaction to
suddenly stumbling upon such a great tree can be amazement. Where had it
been hiding? But in such tangles of the resident heath shrubs that are
more tree than shrub like, one’s horizon lies little beyond an
outstretched arm.

On encircling the tree, which was fully 16 feet around, we discovered
that it had a hollow side, home to many small mammals, including
interior forest bats, and countless insects. High above, this old
monarch of the cove played host to vocal, avian visitors. Neo-tropical
migratory songbirds sat on its huge extended limbs and announced the
boundaries of their territories. We could see ferns and mosses and even
saplings growing in the forks of its branches fully 90 feet above the
forest floor. The old tuliptree was literally a hotel in the forest, a
place of rest for those passing through, and a permanent abode for many
a local critter. I don’t know how old the tree was - perhaps three
centuries, but old enough. It was a forest elder, an Ent.

On circling the great tree, all three of our imaginations went into high
gear. Our artist friend was spirited away in visual imagery to a world
filled with Merlin-like beings. I watched her scan and rescan the tree
from roots to crown with first an intense look, a fixation, followed by
a growing softness. The color in her face changed. Sharp angles became
gentle curves. She was allowing the myriad of forms and shapes to
register in her subconscious, to drink in the elixir that only an
old-growth forest provides. One day the impressions she was forming from
this brief encounter would combine force, and channeled by her artistic
predilections, burst forth in splashing color on canvas. Others,
leisurely strolling by her creations in tame settings would gaze and be
drawn into the painting’s labyrinth of emotional pathways. In an
inexplicable way, they would feed that great river of thought as it
wound its way back to that hidden spot in the rhododendrons, reinforcing
some psychic pathway that forms part of the connections shared by all
living things. In her creation, our artist friend would have fulfilled
her mission of transformation.

Robert T. Leverett
Cofounder, Eastern Native Tree Society
Aesthetics    Edward Frank
   Dec 28, 2006 15:27 PST 


I have been wading through the relatively large number of articles posted
on the web dealing with Aesthetics and forests. Most deal with how to
make a timber cut look better so that the general public will not object
so much. Others seem to be a mixture of self-vanity and drivel.
However there are a number of good articles, or pieces of articles worth
reading. Here is a section of one article that might be of interest:

  "Aesthetics, Are We Neglecting a Critical Issue in Certification for
Sustainable Forest Management? By Stephen R.J. Sheppard, Cecilia
Achiam, and Robert G. D’Eon,
July/August 2004 • Journal of Forestry

Why Is Aesthetics Undervalued?
We suggest at least four reasons for the common omission or lack of
specificity in aesthetics indicators for sustainable forestry:
• A cultural bias among professionals and scientists, who favor the hard
physical and natural or mathematically based sciences and view areas
such as aesthetics as soft, subjective, and risky.
• A lack of training in aesthetics and allied social science disciplines
at all levels, from senior scientific panels and government task forces
writing criteria and indicators to forest managers and
certification teams.
• A general omission from the certification process of people with
qualifications in aesthetics, such as landscape architects, landscape
foresters, and other social science professionals (Sheppard et al.
• The absence of substantive public input to local indicator setting,
whereby public concerns for aesthetics and sense of place, for example,
could be actively expressed (Beckley et al. 2002).

McCool and Stankey (2001) consider public input into the definition one
of the critical evaluation criteria for sustainability indicators. There
is no indication of public consultation in setting the aesthetics
indicators or in verifying the results of certification audits in terms
of public satisfaction—a major issue in assessing social sustainability
(Sheppard 2003). This lack of awareness of the issue of forest
aesthetics and, more importantly, of the methods available to address it
can perhaps be related to many forestry schools’ lack of substantive
education in the area of aesthetics, despite its importance to the
public and the policymakers who affect how forestry is conducted."




RE: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics" and Aesthetics   Edward Frank
  Dec 28, 2006 17:13 PST 

Tim, Doug, Don, Everyone:

Biodiversity: The question is do we want a more diverse environment of
many examples of common species, or do we want a less diverse environment
with more examples of uncommon species? A setting that contains a
larger number of different habitat types, such as an old abandoned field
adjacent to a second growth forest may have a high number of species -
those from both the forest and field settings as well as those
inhabiting the habitat edge between the two. An old-growth forest may
have fewer numbers of birds and animals, or even large plant species,
but may have diverse communities of moss mats, lycopodium, lichens,
ferns, and other species less commonly found in disturbed forests. I
would favor the latter.

There is a nice description of the various ways biodiversity can be
characterized in the article: Kimmins, JP. Biodiversity, beauty and the
"beast": Are beautiful forests sustainable, are sustainable forests
beautiful, and is "small" always ecologically desirable? FORESTRY
CHRONICLE. 1999; 75(6):955-960 6; ISSN: ISI:000084938400032.
RE: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics" and Aesthetics: Diversity Indices   Paul Jost
  Dec 28, 2006 18:09 PST 


Diversity is an interesting subject, and is one that my oldest brother
has been working on with international mathematicians and ecologists.
He recently had a letter published in Oikos and another journal article
provisionally accepted by Ecology. The paper discusses diversity
indices, the faults of commonly used diversity indices, corrections to
existing diversity index data, and more. For any one seriously
interested in the mathematics behind and the application of diversity
indices, information is available on:

Paul Jost
RE: "Eco-logics" versus "Silvics" and Aesthetics: Diversity Indices   Paul Jost
  Jan 08, 2007 21:18 PST 


In addition to the new paper in Ecology, my brother is writing a book
with Anne Chao in Taiwan, originator of the Chao estimator. Her web
site includes many of her publications in pdf format:

I don't have a lot of really good links, but there is a lot of related
material available on the web, but I have found few complete
discussions. Unfortunately, much is in journals and not free on the

Others are:


Sample applications:

see section on talks at:

Others not on the web without paying:
Hill, Mark O., 1973. Diversity and evenness: A unifying notation and its
consequences. Ecology 54(2): 427-432.

MacArthur, Robert H., 1965. Patterns of species diversity. Biological
Reviews 40(4): 510-533.

related biogeography links that may be of interest to you:

Please excuse some of the links that don't fit on a single line.


Gary A. Beluzo wrote:

Thanks for the link, I finally had the opportunity to read your brother's
papers, interesting. I am very interested in complexity indices used in
ecology. Have you seen any links?

Aesthetics 2   Edward Frank
  Dec 30, 2006 08:34 PST 


Most people involved with this list has at least heard of the Forest
Reserve system in Massachusetts. Here is a listing of criteria and
weighting values used to help select the specific areas that included in
the Forest Reserve system.

Massachusetts Forest Reserve Evaluation Criteria

James DiMaio writes: We went through a process of expert choices
ranking each criteria against one another. This is a formal evaluation
process which can be on your own. We had experts ecologists, biologist,
scientist, leaders in forestry (about 15-20 folks serve on the panel.)
We also used very sophisticated GIS information for each candidate
forest reserve after the weighting was developed.

Criteria                                                       Weight
Acreage of Old Growth .                             .268
Acreage of Valley Bottom                             .188
% Protected Land in Surrounding area                 .115
% 1830s Forest                                       .114
Number of Viable Rare Communities                    .108   
% BioMap Ambystomid Habitat                         .047
% Riparian and Wetland Forest                        .035
% Forest Interior                                    .025
Acreage of Largest Interior Forest                   .025
% Living Waters Critical Supporting Watershed        .023

Lee recently spoke of High Conservation Value Forests. This is a link
to more information and a listing of the six types of HCVF.
Interestingly on the site was also an example of a High Conservation
Value Grassland. For the most part the categories are very generalized.

High Conservation Value Resource Network

The six types of High Conservation Value Forests
HCV1. Forest areas containing globally, regionally or nationally
significant concentrations of biodiversity values (e.g. endemism,
endangered species, refugia). For example, the presence of several
globally threatened bird species within a Kenyan montane forest.

HCV2. Forest areas containing globally, regionally or nationally
significant large landscape level forests, contained within, or
containing the management unit, where viable populations of most if not
all naturally occurring species exist in natural patterns of
distribution and abundance. For example, a large tract of Mesoamerican
lowland rainforest with healthy populations of jaguars, tapirs, harpy
eagles and caiman as well as most smaller species.

HCV3. Forest areas that are in or contain rare, threatened or endangered
ecosystems. For example, patches of a regionally rare type of freshwater
swamp forest in an Australian coastal district.

HCV4. Forest areas that provide basic services of nature in critical
situations (e.g. watershed protection, erosion control).
For example, forest on steep slopes with avalanche risk above a town in
the European Alps.

HCV5. Forest areas fundamental to meeting basic needs of local
communities (e.g. subsistence, health).
For example, key hunting or foraging areas for communities living at
subsistence level in a Cambodian lowland forest mosaic.

HCV6. Forest areas critical to local communities’ traditional cultural
identity (areas of cultural, ecological, economic or religious
significance identified in cooperation with such local communities). For
example, sacred burial grounds within a forest management area in
Aesthetics 3   Edward Frank
  Dec 30, 2006 08:37 PST 

Sheppard, Stephen R. J., Chapter eleven: Beyond Visual Resource
Management: Emerging Theories of an Ecological Aesthetic and Visible
Stewardship (2000?)

3 The Ecological Aesthetic

More in tune with the new forestry of ecosystem management is the idea
that aesthetic appreciation should be informed by ecological knowledge,
so that what is good ecologically also looks good to us. This theory
draws on Leopold’s philosophy of the land ethic (Leopold, 1949) and
related arguments from Carlson (1979; 1984), Callicott (1987), and
Gobster (1995). Gobster (1999; see also
the Foreword to this volume) has recently promoted this theory, which
finds support from forest ecologists (e.g. Kimmins, 1999 and Chapter 4
in this volume).

Presumably informed by more quantitative evidence of ecological
condition, and taking a longer-term view of the temporal dynamics of
forests, such an aesthetic would avoid the need for managers to preserve
the visual intactness of scenic landscapes, or impose, for example, the
open ground plane of the savannah hypothesis (Orians, 1986) on the dense
rain forest.

3.1 Theoretical Underpinnings of the Ecological Aesthetic and its
Relationship to Sustainability

This new aesthetic paradigm seeks explicitly to reconcile aesthetics and
ecological sustainability. It advocates a deeper beauty, informed by
meaning: it is “as cerebral as it is perceptual” (Flader and Callicott,
1991). Gobster sees the ecological aesthetic as recognizing “the more
subtle, experiential, and dynamic qualities that often characterize
forest ecosystems of high biological integrity” (Gobster, 1995,p. 7).

The development of such a new aesthetic and its dispersion throughout
the population might be analogous to the altered public perceptions of
wilderness and wetlands in more recent times, where both have come to be
valued in their own right rather than being seen as places to be feared
or wasteland to be put to a higher use. The changing nature of some
aspects of aesthetic perceptions through
history has indeed been amply documented (e.g. Porteous, 1996, and
Chapter 9 this volume).

Under this theory, knowledge of ecological function and process can
overcome what are presumably cultural biases against so-called messy
ecosystems: those which lack the orderly look of more conventionally
managed landscapes. Alternatively, the theory argues that ecological
knowledge can broaden peoples vision to recognize the dynamic nature of
healthy ecosystems, and to accept landscape change, rather than to
adhere to the normal public preference
for stability. In recent times, the televised devastation and subsequent
natural restoration of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State and the fires
in Yellowstone National Park must have contributed significantly to
public understanding of ecological processes.