Old-growth forests captivate and inspire us. Walking through them can transport us to a time before human domination of the natural world. This is especially the case with old-growth forests in the eastern part of the United States, a region with a long history of profound human disturbances of ecological regimes. Beyond their role as inspiration, old growth serves important ecological functions regionally and globally. These forests also provide several practical services to humans. How do scientists define old-growth forests? How can non-experts identify old forests and understand their importance locally and globally? These are some of the topics covered in Ecology and Recovery of Eastern Old-Growth Forests (Island Press, 2018) an anthology edited by Andrew Barton and William Keeton.
Ecology and Recovery of Eastern Old-Growth Forests (Island Press, 2018) is a perfect book for readers who want to learn the fundamentals of forest ecology and old growth in the east. Over thirty experts contributed to the book, writing chapters which range from the basics like defining and identifying old growth to more specialized subjects like the biological interactions below the forest floor. A large range of eastern forest types are covered, extending south from the boreal forest in central Canada to the bottomland hardwood forests and pine savannas of the American south. Those interested in human interactions with the forest through time will learn about Native American and Euro-American forestry. There are also chapters covering threats to old growth posed by invasive organisms.
This is not exclusively a book about regional environments as the latter chapters of Ecology and Recovery explain how old growth can help mitigate ecological problems in the United States and globally. There are chapters on the services that old growth provides, from improving stream quality to storing carbon. The authors also explain how old growth can be conserved and how forests can be managed to promote old-growth structures and features. The range of topics covered in the book is impressive and its relevance in a time of unprecedented ecological change should be clear.
Jason L. Newton is a visiting assistant professor of history at Cornell University. His book manuscript, Cutover Capitalism: The Industrialization of the Northern Forest, 1850-1950, is a history of the changing types of labor performed by people, trees, and the landscape in the American Northeast as that area industrialized. He has also published on nature, race, and immigration. He teaches classes on labor and the environment.
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