|The practices of planning, managing and usually harvesting of trees, both as a source of timber and to create or conserve multi-purpose forest environments for conservation, recreation or landscape purposes. As Rackham (1986) points out, the word \'forest\' in the Germanic origin, probably meant a tract of trees, but throughout Western Europe it came to mean land on which deer were protected. Originally, then, trees were only of secondary importance in forests. Their role was to be a place of food and shelter for animals and people, while the deer were the essential constituent of the forest. Only later did the popular meaning of forest as extensive tracts of timber trees come into popular circulation.
Mather (1990) has suggested three stages in the development of forest resources. The pre-industrial forest yields a wide range of localized products, including food and fodder as well as timber/wood for fuel and the making of implements, utensils and weapons. Access to the forest is often on the basis of common-property. The industrial forest is characterized by the primary purpose of harvesting timber/ wood. Ownership is usually exclusive (either in the private or public sectors) and access is subject to private property rights. In the postindustrial forest, the primacy of timber/wood production has been reduced or even removed, and priority is given to recreation and/or conservation alongside or instead of wood production. Here, private property rights may persist, but access is often regulated by public policy or social influence. Although these three stages are perhaps oversimplified, and relate more to developed rather than underdeveloped nations, where forests are often likely to be destroyed by the economic demands of industrialized agriculture, a series of very interesting historical geographies emerge from studies of the diffusion of systematic industrial forestry. For example, Radkan (1996) traces the origins of such forestry to the founding fathers of German forestry, who recognized the twin dangers of increased demand for wood from a growing population and the deterioration of soils from forest exploitation plus loss of communal forests to farmland. Fear of a timber famine in these circumstances led to a systemization of forestry practices based on the concept of controlling nature through precise mathematical design. These ideas were disseminated into colonial forestry enterprises (see Clapp, 1995), and indeed it was from the Indian Forest Service that German practices were adopted in Britain. Moreover, German foresters also went to North America (Rogers, 1991) taking their models of \'sustained yield management\' with them. In this way, the wilderness of unmanaged trees of various ages all growing together was often replaced by blocks of same-age trees subjected to cyclical harvesting (Williams, 1989). In turn, some of the \'alien\' species from North America were introduced into Europe, forging a significant, and contested, change in some rural landscapes.
Human geographers have studied forests and forestry at a number of different scales. Globally, forests cover more than one quarter of the world\'s total land area, but some 16 million hectares per annum is thought to be disappearing as forests are cleared by timber producers, or converted to other, usually agricultural, uses (Abramovitz, 1998). A recent report (Bryant et al., 1997) focuses on the \'frontier forests\' â€” areas of large ecologically intact and relatively undisturbed natural forests â€” concluding that more than 75 per cent are found in Canada /Alaska, Russia, and the Amazon Basin /Guyana Shield. The devastation of deforestation in tropical rainforests has been well publicized, but degradation is also a significant problem elsewhere. For example, it is suggested that some two-thirds of Canada\'s coastal rainforest has also been degraded by logging and development. Such trends, and the practices behind them, pose very serious questions relating to the upkeep of biodiversity, the practice of sustainable development and the prevention of global environmental disaster.
Forestry has also been studied at the national and local scales. In Mather\'s terms, the shift from industrial to post-industrial forests has often been aided by national or federal policies for forestry, which have sought to introduce, or to encourage, management objectives relating to wildlife conservation, recreation and sustainability. The value of some forest environments has thereby increased relative to the value of forests as timber factories, and the shift to multi-purpose objectives has been noted both in old growth native forests in North America and Australasia and also in the smaller European forests such as in Germany and Britain. A new breed of forestry management has emerged in which new values and objectives have grown up alongside the traditional goals of industrial forestry. In some cases a new breed of forests has also emerged, signifying the role of forests in the community (Bishop, 1992) and in the nation (Cloke et al., 1996).
One further fascination with human geographers has been the way in which forests, and trees, have come to signify particular nature-society relations. The recognition that forests are produced by human activity, creativity and experience, has meant that \'extraordinarily powerful and different myths have come to be woven into the roots and branches of various cultures\' (Macnaughton and Urry, 1998, p. 183). For example, Schama (1995) analyses the spirit of militarism represented in German forests, which was deployed as an embodied memory by Nazi modernists, and Daniels (1993) charts the importance of forests as \'greenwood\' libertarian spaces in the \'hearts of oak\' national identities of England. Forests and forestry, then, are a rich resource for cultural as well as environmental and industrial geographies.Â (PJC)
References Abramovitz, J.N. 1998: Sustaining the world\'s forests. In Worldwatch Institute, ed., State of the World 1998. London: Earthscan.Â Bishop, K. 1992: Britain\'s new forests: dependence on private interest. In A. Gilg, ed., Restructuring the countryside: environmental policy in practice. Aldershot: Aveburg.Â Bryant, D., Nielson, D. and Tangley, L. 1997: The last frontier forests: ecosystems and economies on the edge. Washington, D.C.: World Resource Institute.Â Clapp, S. 1995: Creating competitive advantage: forest policy as industrial policy in Chile. Economic Geography 71: 273-96.Â Cloke, P., Milbourne, P. and Thomas, C. 1996: The English National Forest: local reactions to plans for renegotiated nature-society relations in the countryside. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 21: 552-71.Â Daniels, S. 1993: Fields of vision. Cambridge: Polity.Â Mather, A.S. 1990: Global forest resources. London: Belhaven.Â Macnaughton, P. and Urry, J. 1998: Contested natures. London: Sage.Â Rackham, O. 1986: The history of the countryside. London: Dent.Â Radkan, J. 1996: Wood and forestry in German history: in quest of an environmental approach. Environment and History 2: 63-76.Â Rogers, A. 1991: Bernhard Eduard Fernow: A story of North American forestry, 3rd edn. Durham, NC: Forest History Society.Â Schama, S. 1995: Landscape and memory. London: HarperCollins.Â Williams, M. 1989: Americans and their forests: a historical geography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press;
Suggested Reading European Parliament, 1994: A global community strategy in the forest sector. Luxembourg: European Parliament.Â Mather, A. 1998: The changing role of forests. In B. Ilbery, ed., The geography of rural change. Harlow: Longman.Â Rival, L., ed., 1998: The social life of trees: anthropological perspectives on tree symbolism. Oxford: Berg.