Professor's book promotes forest conservation

The term "Old Growth Urban Forest" may sound like a contradiction, but it is a very real ecosystem type, and many old growth urban forests across the globe are in danger of being lost. Penn State DuBois Associate Professor of Biology and Forestry Robert Loeb defines the ecosystem, demonstrates research methodology for old growth urban forests, and offers strategies to reduce that danger and save these unique and diverse forest ecosystems in his new book, "Old Growth Urban Forests" (Springer). 

In the book, Loeb suggests that, in places such as New York City's Central Park and Philadelphia's Fairmont Park, old growth forests should be actively managed, and not simply left to fend for themselves against the stresses of human disturbances and urban environments. This contradicts conventional concepts related to old growth forests that a forest is deemed to be old growth only if it has gone completely undisturbed by humans.

"Many urban forests are composed of old trees and admired by visitors as being old growth forests," Loeb explained. Loeb hopes to change traditional way of thinking about old growth in order to ultimately save these urban forests through new conservation practices. Many of these forests, according to Loeb, are on the verge of disappearing because of human interference with natural arboreal reproduction, and the fact that park administrators and urban foresters do not intervene with maintenance and conservation measures, particularly in natural area forests.

"My purpose in writing this book is to motivate urban foresters and ecologists to break through the barrier created by the hallowed concept of old growth forest as undisturbed by humans," Loeb said. "Recognizing old growth forests in urban settings expands the spectrum of urban forest research to include a focus on long-term changes in the relationships between human-caused changes and the urban forest dynamics. Foresters and ecologists can then reap the benefits of understanding critical issues such as species introductions and climate change that have affected old growth urban forests across our planet for centuries."

Loeb hopes educators will use it as a text book in urban forestry and old growth ecology classes, training the next generation of foresters and ecologists with this new frame of reference and research methods. Also, he hopes his book will be embraced by urban conservationists who will actively put these perspectives and techniques into practice, preserving old growth forests in urban settings.


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Last Updated January 09, 2015