Concepts of forest health: Utilitarian and ecosystem perspectives

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  • Despite its widespread use, forest health is frequently used without a clear definition, making its application to forest management difficult. Where the term has been defined (McIntire 1988, Monnig and Byler 1992, USDA Forest Service 1992, USDA Forest Service I993a), alternative definitions and viewpoints of forest health have not been thoroughly discussed. Given its growing use and importance as a management objective, the overall concept needs to be more thoroughly examined. Foresters and other natural resource professionals are and will be participants in public debates over land management that use health analogies and metaphors. The potential for miscommunication is great. Therefore, it is essential that a common definition and conceptual understanding be agreed on. The need for clarity is even greater when a healthy forest is viewed as a desired future condition and maintenance of forest health is viewed as a constraint that may limit forest uses on public lands. This article discusses different definitions of forest health, problems in scaling the concept of health from individual trees to ecosystems, and the relationship between forest health and pest management. Southwestern ponderosa pine (Pinto ponderosa) forests are Mien used as an example. The central point is that ambiguity should be minimized by defining the term, or at least by discussing the concepts included, each time it is used.
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  • Kolb, T. E., Wagner, M. R., & Covington, W. W. (1994). Concepts of forest health: Utilitarian and ecosystem perspectives [Electronic version]. Journal of Forestry, 92(7), 10-15.
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  • 92
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