JAMESTOWN – Every county in the United States should have its own old growth forest.
That was the message Tuesday night from Dr. Joan Maloof, author and founder and director of the Old-Growth Forest Network, speaking at Jamestown Community College as a guest of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute.
Maloof spent nearly an hour discussing her personal journey as a biologist and how she made the transition from someone who simply studied plant and animal interactions to becoming an advocate for promoting the important role biodiversity plays in our world.
According to Maloof, one of the places where biodiversity thrives is in old-growth forests, also known as primary forests or virgin forest. Old growth forests are those that have attained great age without significant disturbance, thereby exhibiting unique ecological features.
Maloof said that old-growth forests are especially rare in the United States because so many forests were removed or are currently being managed by forestry services. She said that despite what some may say, managed forests do not provide the same level of biodiversity.
“Over and over and over again I hear foresters say, ‘You’ve got to manage that forest in order for it to be healthy,'” Maloof said. “But what does science say about that? My science [background] is useful to me. I can dig into the science literature and look for something like birds. I can find the studies and compare the birds in the old growth forests to those in the managed forests. I can compare the fungi, the snails, insects, and on and on and on. And in every case, the biodiversity is higher in the old growth forests.”
Maloof also talked about the benefits of old growth forests to people. She said that old growth forests tend to have a higher concentration of oxygen, adding that research is now underway to try and understand the positive impacts spending time in the forest has on both physical and mental health.
“There are other compounds in the forest air that are also going into our blood stream – not just the oxygen,” Maloof said. “They’re circulating in our body, including our brain, and can effect our moods and our systems in a way that we really don’t quite yet understand. That research is really in its infancy.”
Maloof said that for the longest time, no system was in place to help preserve old growth forests, which is why she set up the Old-Growth Forest Network. She said the goal of the network is to have at least one old growth forest in very county in the United States where forests naturally grow.
The Four criteria that must be met for a forest to be added to the network are:
- The trees need to be as mature as possible;
- It needs to be protected from any type of logging activity;
- It should be open to the public;
- They should be relatively accessible.
Maloof will continue her visit to Chautauqua County Wednesday by visiting the 40 acre college lodge site, owned by SUNY Fredonia. Which is considered an Old Growth Forest but is also at risk of being logged by the college.
For more information about the not-for-profit Old-Growth Forest Network, visit OldGrowthForest.net.