Sunday, September 15, 2013

Economic incentives fail deciduous forest birds, no substitute for eastern wilderness

Investigators test econometric land use model of deciduous forests for impacts on bird habitat.

The loss of forest birds habitats under different land use policies as projected by a coupled ecological-econometric model  by Frederic Beaudry et al., 2013. Biological Conservation, Volume 165, September 2013, Pages 1-9.

Charles C. Deam Wilderness, Hoosier National Forest, Indiana. Image by author 2012.
Public policies impact habitat conservation on both public and private lands. The outcomes are often deleterious for natural systems. There's only so much we can take from landscapes and still leave intact sustainable ecosystems for the future. Deciduous forests are increasingly vulnerable. Modeling and testing policy impacts on deciduous habitats not only suggests likely policy outcomes, it can tell us when no policy of exploitation can do everything we want to do.

"Coupled econometric-ecological models can be used to evaluate alternative incentive programs and to explore the complex interactions between policy, land use change, and broad spatial scale ecological processes that are highly relevant to conservation."

Multiple threats erode ecological systems supporting deciduous forest birds; urbanization, parcelization, and fragmentation diminish habitat and complicate forest planning. Demand for forest products is incentive for efficient industrial forestry practices. Intensive management of forests for commercial products impacts eastern U.S. forest ecosystems increasingly. Intensively managed even-aged stands just do not replace maturing uneven-age forest lands for long term ecosystem maintenance. Deep forest species like Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, Worm-eating Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, and many more will continue to decline under intensive forest management systems.

An argument for designated wilderness

Designated wilderness and backcountry areas, few and far between in the eastern United States, may become a last bastion for deep forest ecosystems and the birds and other wildlife that flourish only in aging forest mosaics.

Eastern states urgently need core regions of designated wilderness and/or backcountry management areas. The Eastern Areas Wilderness Act enables designation of recovering wilderness areas on federal public lands. The federal system holds a backlog of proposed wilderness areas in the east, ask congress to act! Few states support state owned public wilderness areas, Ohio is one. Eastern states, including Ohio, will determine the future of most eastern wild lands and their capacities to recover and sustain biological diversity on wild lands. Biodiversity sustainability needs State Wilderness Recovery Systems to identify and protect essential core areas from ecosystem degradations, including intensive forest management systems.

What does it take to make a wilderness in an eastern state forest: just stop interventions, stop forest management practices, and close a few forest roads that bisect large regions of maturing forest mosaics that include all local terrain positions, a local watershed is a good start. Ecosystem functions renew when we leave landscapes to nature. Roadless areas or later road removals are better, but perfect cannot be the enemy of good enough! Gated roads can be maintained for emergency access only, while allowing recovering wilderness to mature into quality ecosystems for deep forest species. Eventual removal of roads and structures will deliver fully recovered wilderness for future generations while ensuring cleaner air and water, recovering soils, recovering biological systems including rare animals, big and small. This is a debt we owe to the future.

No comments: