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I was speaking to someone employed as a state forester recently and we were comparing maps we had brought to the meeting. He talked about how he had access to all sorts of cool maps like infrared and even aerial maps dating back to the early 1910's and 20's. I joked that those maps must just be the tops of endless forests (this was in a northern state known for its forests) and he said the images seen were the opposite. He explained that farming back then was incredibly inefficient and farmers would clear cut as many trees as they could and till as much soil as possible on any piece of flat land they could access. The forester said that with advancements in farming and increases in efficiency, the countryside contained more forest land now than any previous point in time starting from when farmers grew crops for more than just their own family. It was a fact that I found interesting and had not considered before as I had always imagined the woods in olden times to be a larger percentage of all available land.



Woods were a larger percentage of land, but you're not thinking far back enough.


Your point of well explained in the book 'Rational Optimist' The intensive farming actually increased wilderness. With tech of 1960, it would have required 86% of land to be farmed to feed current world population.


A lot of the "forests" we have at least here are planted monocultures which are periodically completely cut down. Also known as "tree farms". All trees are the same age. Also the forest is full of ditches that makes it hard to pass for animals. The ecosystem and the species living there are quite different to real more natural forests. Most people have never even been to a multi century old forest anymore. Also we get invasions of pests like Diprion Pini etc. But yeah it looks green from a satellite or even airplane.


I am a forester and maybe I can chime in. From the point of view of CO2 assimilation the clear-cut or even better cut in small parts over the years forests are much better than those old-growth multicentury forests around the world. Actually old-growth forest will accumulate less CO2 than younger counterparts and may have ratio of realeased and accumulate CO2 being close to 1:1. Number of species at least in European or rather Polish forests are pretty large in both natural protected and normally used forests. Of course they are countries with worse forest conditions like for example Africa or Scandinavia, but still greener planet = better planet. It doesn't matter that much, why it is greener.

The general approach changes at least here. The largest difference is relatively smaller density of dead wood in the forests, which is important and still not fully understood habitat.


At least this science survey concludes that old forests do accumulate carbon. https://www.nature.com/articles/nature07276

Also a lot of the forest mass that gets cut is used for "green energy" so it's worse than letting it stay in the forest. Basically in a periodically burnt (bioenergy) forest the carbon is kept in the atmosphere most of the time while in an old growth forest it's in the trunks all the time.


>He explained that farming back then was incredibly inefficient and farmers would clear cut as many trees as they could and till as much soil as possible on any piece of flat land they could access.

I grew up in NH and there is far more forest there now than there was at the turn of the century. I remember going on a hike with my father and frequently running into stone walls and old pastures at least several hours' hike from the nearest roads.




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