Friday, January 30, 2009

New Trees for Old?

The NYTimes has an article on the spread of "rain forests". Yes, I wrote spread. It seems the phenomena of abandoned farms/plantations reverting to the "wild" isn't limited to the Northeast. (I've some nice photos which show a big change in the landscape where I grew up over 80 years or so--but that's a project for another day.)

I've put the quotes in because there seems to be controversy among the scientists over whether the reforested land is of much ecological or environmental value. The article is also unclear, as here: "In Panama by the 1990s, the last decade for which data is available, the rain forest is being destroyed at a rate of 1.3 percent each year. The area of secondary forest is increasing by more than 4 percent yearly, Dr. Wright estimates." No way to know whether the percentages are off the same base--the way the sentence is worded one would assume not, but then the point of it is lost.

The earlier part of the same paragraph:
"About 38 million acres of original rain forest are being cut down every year, but in 2005, according to the most recent “State of the World’s Forests Report” by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, there were an estimated 2.1 billion acres of potential replacement forest growing in the tropics — an area almost as large as the United States. The new forest included secondary forest on former farmland and so-called degraded forest, land that has been partly logged or destroyed by natural disasters like fires and then left to nature."
The point is, the world is more complex than the protagonists on any side usually admit. As a bonus, here's chapter 2 of a book which tries to display visually how U.S. agriculture has changed, with the prime farming areas moving West. (The upstate NY area from Albany to Buffalo has dramatically changed in this regard.) The focus of the chapter is more on prime farmland shifting to urban uses, but what was prime in 1820 is now forest.

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