The Redwood Forest: History, Ecology, and the Conservation of the Coast Redwoods. , editor. 1999 . Island Press , Washington, D.C. (in conjunction with Save-the-Redwoods League) . 352 pp. $60.00. (hardcover) . ISBN 1-55963-725-0 . $30.00 (paperback). ISBN 1–55963–726–9.
The Save-the-Redwoods League has an eight-decade tradition of preserving redwood forests in parks and sponsoring research and symposia on redwoods. The Redwood Forest is its latest contribution to our knowledge and understanding of this important resource. Published by Island Press and edited by Reed Noss, The Redwood Forest is an impressive compilation integrating contributions from over 30 experts on redwoods and redwood forests. The Save-the-Redwoods League's goals for the book are (1) to describe the scientific basis for their “Master Plan for the Redwoods,” (2) to produce a general reference on redwoods and redwood forests, and (3) to create a guide for decision making in the redwood region. The book achieves all three goals. Although it is not an exhaustive research or planning tome, it does a good job of presenting the scientific backdrop for and many of the major issues facing the conservation of redwood forests.
Chapter 1 briefly describes the value of redwoods and the purpose and scope of the book. The second chapter is a fascinating and illuminating treatment of the history of redwoods and redwood forests. Geographic distributions and botanical associations of redwood and redwood's ancestors are reported sequentially from the Mesozoic through the Holocene. Early human occupation in and around redwood forests is discussed, with a particularly interesting side bar on Yurok life among the redwoods. The latter part of the chapter is devoted to the effects of post-European settlement on redwoods and a history of early redwood preservation efforts.
Chapter 3 dispells the notion that if you've seen one redwood forest you've seen them all. The authors present the great diversity of redwood forest types in an easily understood format. Prominent plant associations found within northern, central, and southern redwood forests are classified and placed into physiographic, climatological, and ecological contexts. The importance of exotic and rare plants is discussed, and an interesting account of redwood canopy communities is given. Checklists of vascular plants, fungi, and lichens are provided in appendices. Two appendices listing rare and endangered vascular plants found in the redwood region are potentially misleading, however, because the majority of the plants listed are not found in redwood forests.
Chapter 4 addresses the redwood's life history, environmental relations, genetics, major coexisting tree species, and disturbance regimes, and the ecological roles of fungi. The science presented is excellent and vital to our understanding of redwood ecosystems and management. My primary concern with this chapter is its brevity. In particular, more should have been written on stand dynamics, disturbance regimes, and production ecology.
The terrestrial fauna of redwood forests are presented in the next chapter. Most of the discussion revolves around vertebrate distributions, description, richness, and habitat relationships, and around the principles of landscape ecology. A relatively short section on invertebrates follows. Sections on forest carnivores and Marbled Murrelets provide support for conservation planning.
The authors of Chapter 6 develop some basic principles of stream ecosystem processes, examine the natural histories and ecosystem roles of the aquatic biota, and then discuss the effects of timber harvesting and related activities on stream ecosystem processes. Conservation planning is the subject of the next chapter. Much of it focuses on a “focal area identification and assessment model” and its underlying principles of landscape and conservation biology. The authors take us through an analysis of 10 conservation criteria that eventually can be evaluated and represented in planning maps generated by a geographic information system.
Redwood forest management is the logical last meaty chapter. Topics include management of redwood parks, traditional silviculture, new silviculture, and adaptive management. Clearly, the future condition of young-growth redwood forests will be a function of the silvicultural tools chosen. This chapter does a good job of presenting a sampling of alternate approaches. More are out there, and without a doubt new methods will be developed as we learn more about managing the redwood forest.
The final chapter summarizes significant findings and argues for similar studies on other imperiled natural communities. Following this is a short glossary and species lists of animals, fungi, lichens, and plants. The extensive literature-cited section is an invaluable reference for redwood scholars.
Strengths of the book are that it is (1) a succinct digest of our current knowledge of redwoods and redwood forests, (2) readable and accessible to a wide audience, and (3) a valuable reference for conservation planners. Weaknesses of the book are (1) that the topics dealing with ecosystem structure are disproportionately weighted more heavily than topics dealing with ecosystem process, (2) that the blurring of the redwood forest and the redwood region may lead to misinterpretation by some readers, and (3) that the tendency (other than in chapter 3) not to fully recognize diversity in redwood forest types could lead some readers to inappropriate extrapolations.
In summary, I recommend the The Redwood Forest because it is a good summary of redwood history, ecology, and conservation. The book should become a valuable reference for scientists, policy makers, students, and people with an interest in redwoods and redwood conservation.