Prologue

The forest – a complex backdrop

Take a moment to consider: what type of landscape do you see when you think of nature? What image is most connected to the idea of the natural? Quite likely it is a forest that will spring up before your eyes.

The forest is immensely popular as a setting, and might as well be called “a complex backdrop”. In it, countless spatial and temporal fields are continually interacting with one another in myriad ways. It is difficult for a mind to track all the mutual influencing that is going on all the time. The microclimate of this landscape is regulated by trees many human lengths tall; miniscule DNA sequences transport the specific typological features of each kind of tree. One needn’t be a specialist to feel the former, the microclimate, when entering the woods. Whereas to find out if a tree is standing in the right place from a molecular genetic point of view, it is necessary to do some scientific research in the laboratory.

kleinerfarn

Man and the discipline of forestry examine the woods with their various methods. Man has been doing this since ancient prehistory; modern silviculture has been at it for about 300 years. We have high expectations toward the woods: they are to offer space for many forms of life and at the same time provide wood as an important raw material. They protect us from natural catastrophes and supply us with well-filtered drinking water. As a natural backdrop for our conversations, the woods enchant us, calm us, animate us by their acoustic, visual and olfactory way of being.

The biggest challenge for forestry is the fact that the woods are such a long-term affair. One cannot even directly grasp the growth of the trees, and often it becomes clear only after a couple of decades whether a certain “intrusion” in a part of a forest was right or not. That is one of the reasons why forestry is so dedicated to the collection of data on the woods and the trees. Growing stock, forest biodiversity index, tree ring analysis, drought stress, tree damage monitoring and long-term test areas are a few of the professional termina – behind each one lies a sea of data. These columns of numbers, which can be viewed in a structured manner under www.waldzahlen.at, are the material of the scientific method of the forestry workers.

Marianne Schreck

Translation: Ann Cotten

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