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value of Late stage succession?

 
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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What is the value of it? I admit I'm new to all of this but it just seems like a lot of shade to me.
 
gardener
Posts: 1046
Location: Northern Italy
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Ask the trees, animals, insects, and fungi what the value of it is. I'm sure they would have a lot to say on the matter. Somebody is benefiting from late succession.

Late stage succession doesn't provide much for humans (too much shade), which is why most of our creations aim at mid-succession. Likewise for conifers.

There could be a lot of use value in the wood, but by chopping it down you're bringing in more light and rolling it back to mid-sucession, which demonstrates our preference for that stage.

William
 
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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I am new to permaculture and our food forest is still early stage succession, but here's my understanding: If the tall, nut trees are not planted too close together and/or are on the northern side of the food forest, then there's going to be plenty of sunlight for the lower fruit trees, even decades from now. So, even when the fruit and nut trees are mature, there will be lots of production. If the spacing is correct, there should be a few sunny spots for leaves and herbs too. Some plants, like blackberries for example, can be quite productive even in shade. We have started out planting more densely, however we expect to "cull" some of our trees, especially the nurse plants of course, when it begins to become too shady. We're starting with a cleared lot, so that won't be needed for quite a while.

The ultimate goal is that 20 years from now we should have large mature chestnut and pecan trees in heavy production, while still maintaining heavy fruit and berry production. In fact, by then many of the fruit and berry plants will have completed their life cycle and will have been replaced with younger plants. This vision of a forest with a mix of large, medium, and small plants, with some sunny spots here and there, is what an old growth forest looks like, and that's latest stage succession. It seems important to have the large trees spread out and/or on the northern side in order to maximize productivity, long term.
 
Posts: 80
Location: NW Mass Zone 4 (5 for optomists)
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If you plant apple on full-sized rootstock (or seedling rootstock, or seedling apples if you are brave/don't care much what the apples are like) and let them go, they make a pretty good-sized tree. In the New England forest, one of the ways you can find old homesites is by looking for the apple trees still making their way in the second growth forest.

These are more use to animals than people, on the whole, as it's a bit hard to pick 70 feet up and the fruit bruises when it falls 70 feet down. If those animal are your stock (or something you hunt), you get the benefit at one remove.

 
steward
Posts: 7926
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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To me, often I consider a late stage forest (mature forest) to be a dieing forest. Once it has peaked, everything begins declining. Everything is overgrown, leaving little space (and natural light) for new growth.

In nature, it is waiting for a lightning bolt to burn it back down, when it will produce tons of ashes and nutrients to build the new forest. Modern man stops this natural occurrence because he has invested in homes, and other 'improvements' to the land. How dare those trees burn before I can sell the timber?

A "clear cut" is worse than either a mature forest or a burndown because it removes all of the organic matter and the nutrients, leaving nothing to nurture the new forest. Habitat is destroyed without the materials to rebuild naturally.



 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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An overgrown forest is not yet mature, or old growth. It is late mid succession or early late succession, however you want to look at it. The "latest stage" is the old growth forest. By then much of the "overgrowth" has succombed to competition and openings have been created resulting in trees of all ages and a few openings continue to arise here and there. Old growth forests are roughly in a state of equilibrium. They have very high levels of diversity and biomass. In old growth tropical rain forest, almost all of the biomass is contained in the living species, with very little in the soil or rotting on the forest floor. When anything dies, its energy is re-captured very quickly by the living forest. To me, a food forest that is in a state of equilibrium like this, while producing food for us, is achievable. How well this is achieved and how maintenance-free it is depends on the skill of the designer.
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