Conclusion: Past, Present, and Future of Old-Growth Forests in the East
Old growth—the term evokes something deeply rooted in the human psyche. We imagine the forest primeval, something timeless from our distant collective memory or perhaps nostalgia for what we imagine might once have been. Maybe we long for a time when life was less complicated, when the trappings of modern civilization were not so pervasive. There is the romanticism of the precolonial landscape “in which a squirrel could travel tree-to-tree from Georgia to Maine without ever touching the ground,” a legend that somehow manages to leave out millions of indigenous peoples who influenced that landscape for millennia (Mann 2006). We ground this image in reassuring ideas like “equilibrium dynamics,” in which primary or “virgin” forests are envisioned as stable and unchanging for centuries and natural disturbances are unfortunate events external to the system. Inputs equal outputs, everything in perfect balance.
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