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Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading…

Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape (2010)

by Tom Wessels

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953198,845 (3.88)3
This is a field guide that residents and visitors, landowners and foresters, students and hikers, and anyone who walks in the woods of the Northeast can use to discern the history of virtually any piece of land. What is the evidence: Are trees old or young? Are they standing or have they fallen? Did they snap mid-trunk or tip up with their roots? What is the human footprint on the land - stone walls, open fields - and how has it influenced the landscape? If you ever come across a place so unique, so damaged, or so lovely that it made you wonder how it arrived at that state and what it looked like a hundred years ago, you've finally go the key to deciphering that mystery in Forest Forensics.… (more)



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Full of photos which illustrate the different conditions, which are a great resource. I wish I had had this book when I was doing long term forest monitoring surveys--it's given me a new way of looking at the woods. I'll definitely recommend this book to be used in training the future forest survey crews. Part of my role was to research the history of the forest plot, and my findings (along with my memory of site details) back up some of the statements Wessels makes about windthrow, nurse logs, and age discontinuity. I wish I had known about aging stumps then.
Having read it once, however, I'm not sure I need a field copy to help me in the future. I do, however, want to track down a copy of his "Reading the Forested Landscape". I enjoyed reading about why fires are hotter on the upslope side of a trunk, and how the different agriculural uses affected the terrain. I am hoping his longer book will include more of these fascinating tidbits. ( )
2 vote juniperSun | Jan 4, 2015 |
I'll bet a walk through the woods would be fun and fascinating with Mr. Wessels, but it didn't translate as well into book form. Not enough narrative to link to the photos. There is a nice photo of my dragon tree though.
  2wonderY | May 16, 2014 |
What snapped that tree? Everybody is asking this and similar questions, obsessed, as we are as a culture, with forensic investigation. What is weevils gnawing from within? Was it wind or snow load that toppled it? Or did it die for some other reason and thus snap due to lack of internal structural integrity?

Read Tom Wessels wonderful little book and learn. Better, pop it in your backpack and learn as you hike. Although written for forests of the northeastern part of the U.S., the principles involved are pretty much the same in all forest. (The particulars surely do vary by bioregion, though.)

With dozens of color photos and clear, concise writing, it’s hard to go wrong with this book if you’re interested in forested landscapes. For instance, Wessels’ chapter on how to tell if a forest has overgrown an agricultural field is full of cool details that are widely applicable. Part of this has to do with the fact that, at least in North America, farmers have cleared and abandoned fields in pretty much the same way for hundreds of years.

Read the signs like a real detective and appreciate your forest walks even more with this handy guide from ecologist and environmental biologist Wessels. ( )
2 vote funkendub | Apr 22, 2011 |
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This guide's structure is that of a dichotomous key, a tool for discerning, in this case, the history of a piece of land.
[Introduction] Reading a forested landscape might be more accurately termed forest forensics since it is similar to gleanig a crime scene for evidence to try to piece together exactly what happened in the past.
[Preface] Can I walk through a forest and not interpret its history?
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