[permaculture] Ecosystem Diversity & Bio-mass: Prairies vs.Forests

Toby Hemenway hemenway at jeffnet.org
Mon Jul 8 17:08:27 EDT 2002

on 7/8/02 7:06 AM, Kirby Fry at peace at totalaccess.net wrote:

> One could also argue that just as much forest has been degraded as prairie.
> Another thing to consider is that prairies at least in Texas are an infusion
> of woodlands and grasslands.  Around Elgin, Texas where we live the ratio of
> trees to grass is 50:50.  Yet the prairie restorers don't seem to want to
> include trees in the equation.

You might be interested in the book "Miracle Under the Oaks" by William K.
Stevens. It describes the work of Steve Packard and others in attempting to
restore the savanna that once covered large areas of the US midwest. Packard
found solid evidence that large areas once considered to have been prairie
were actually savanna, that is, scattered trees in grassland/wildflowers. He
had a terrible time persuading people that the savanna existed, and a worse
time getting permission to burn in his attempts to re-create it.

> but fire is too dangerous and
> destructive of a tool to RELY on for prairie maintenance.

I think I've mentioned before that I'd like to see more work on converting
fire-adapted landscapes into non-fire adapted ones. It looks like indigenous
humans were principal agents in creating or significantly extending the
reach of many fire-adapted landscapes, so it does not seem immoral to me to
desire to convert them back into landscapes that are more compatible with
our current land-use practices (i.e. forestry, agriculture, and houses out
in the bush that get burned up in wildfires). I imagine also that
sclerophyllous shrub communities, prairies, and other fire landscapes are
less effective at harvesting and generating rain than woodlands. So I'm on
board with Kirby  on this one.


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