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On permaculture, vegetarianism, grasses and tree fetishism


Cow on Zaytuna Farm
Photo © Craig Mackintosh

Meat and livestock farming are not praised by a lot of environmental activists. Meat production stands accused of stealing food from the mouths of the poor in two-thirds world countries, driving climate change, and being resource consuming. For example, the famous UK activist George Monbiot, published many times on this site, wrote in 2002 that “[veganism i]s the only ethical response to what is arguably the world’s most urgent social justice issue”(1), before retracting this in 2010, saying “I was wrong about veganism. Let them eat meat – but farm it properly”(2).

What happened between those two articles? Well, Monbiot read a book written by livestock farmer and UK permaculturist Simon Fairlie in 2010, whose title is “Meat – a benign extravagance”(3). It’s a very well written book that also debunks quite a few myths about vegan arguments (e.g. that much of the water consumed by animals is from rainfall on grasses used to make the hay, or that if the world suddenly become vegan, no more proteins would be available(4)).

But permaculturists, even if some of them are vegan, know better than most environmental activists. They know that livestock farming can have positive effects on soil, vegetation, carbon sequestration, etc., due to pioneers like P.A. Yeomans with his Keyline system or Allan Savory and his Holistic Management system. Books about permaculture usually contain chapters about livestock (range rotation, tree-fodder, etc.) and the Permaculture Designers’ Manual even dedicates some pages to vegetarianism in which Bill Mollison states that “omnivorous diets (any sort of food) make the best use of complex natural systems”(5).

Tree fetishism among permaculturists

Fairlie’s book highlights another very interesting point, about permaculture mythology this time. He calls it “Tree Fetishism”, which describes an attitude that can be summarised as “tree = good, grass = bad”.

For an example of this tree fetishism, just take a look at the (very good) book of Martin Crawford, “Creating A Forest Garden”, where it is said that pastures require more energy to maintain, are less resilient, have a lower diversity and interconnectedness, than an orchard.(6)

This preference for trees over grass is due to all the advantages of perennials species over annual ones which are oft-praised by permaculturists. A few of them can be deduced from the above comparison. But, wait. Grasses are perennials, and if the preceding statement didn’t shock you, maybe you’re afflicted with tree fetishism too!

In praise of grass

Fairlie writes that “permanent grass is an entire ecosystem of perennial species […] which doesn’t have any above ground infrastructure to maintain. […] It can therefore spring into life sooner than most other perennials.” He adds, “beside being 100 percent edible to animals, grass has numerous other advantages that one would have thought would commend it to permaculturists: it is highly biodiverse and resilient, it creates organic matter in the soil, it introduces nitrogen and improves fertility, its fertility can be moved easily from one place to another with the aid of animals, it can be cut for mulch, it opens up the ground to sunlight, it can be walked on or driven on when mown or grazed, it provides the easiest surface for picking up windfalls or shaken fruit, and it is good for playing football on.”(7)

Advantages of grass are also acknowledged by David Holmgren: “Ironically it is grasslands with grazing animals that might be one of the most resilient systems of land use in the face of climate chaos; these opportunistic systems mostly developed through the pulsing of ice age and interglacial over the last few million years. Animals represent storages that dampen the pulse while predators act to further moderate and protect the whole system.”(8)

Origins of tree fetishism

The lack of interest in grass among permaculturists, specially in Europe, has multiple roots. One of them is veganism amongst permaculturists, which simply makes grass useless. Another reason is the size of plots, which in Europe can be quite small, and where pasture is not the best choice to make the best use of them.

One advantage of trees over grass is the “ecological legitimacy” provided by the climax community theory, which states that in temperate climates (most parts of Europe), the stable state brought about by ecological succession is the forest (and thus, the trees). On this point, Fairlie points out the work of Frans Vera in his book “Grazing Ecology and Forest History”(9). The thesis of Vera is that the climax is not linear but cyclic. The succession from grassland to forest is well known. But for Vera, when a tree dies and creates gaps, the conditions are too shady for thorny shrubs too grow, and thus “herbivores come to eat the grass that colonizes the gaps almost immediately, and then either eat or trample the beech and lime seedlings, maintaining a grassy clearing within the woodland. The clearing may grow because the exposed trees around its edge are more susceptible to windblow.[…] The result is a shifting mosaic [this word crops up repeatedly in texts on the subject] of shade-tolerant and light loving ecosystems, supporting high levels of biodiversity.(10)”

I give the conclusion to Vera: “a permacultural approach will not be one that favours trees on the grounds that they have a superior indigenous pedigree; it will be one that juggles with the dynamic between light and shade to produce landscapes that are rich, biodiverse and convivial for humans.”(11)

References:

  1. Why vegans were right all along, George Monbiot. The Guardian, 24 december 2002.
  2. I was wrong about veganism. Let them eat meat – but farm it properly, George Monbiot. The Guardian, 6 september 2010.
  3. Meat – a benign extravagance, Simon Fairlie. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2010.
  4. Livestock & the environment: Finding a balance, FAO (coordination). FAO, 1997.
  5. Permaculture — A Designers’ Manual, Bill Mollison. Tagari Publications, 1988. p30.
  6. Creating a Forest Garden: Working with nature to grow edible crops,Martin Crawford. Greenbooks, 2010. p. 19.
  7. Simon Fairlie, Ibid. p 245.
  8. Bee keeping for the energy descent future, David Holmgren. January 2011. [PDF]
  9. Grazing Ecology and Forest History, Frans Vera. CABI Publishing, 2000.
  10. Simon Fairlie, Ibid. p 249-50.
  11. Simon Fairlie, Ibid. p 256.

29 Responses to “The Tree that Hides the Prairie”

  1. erin henderson

    I know that cow! These stories keep getting better guys. Thank you zaytuna farm (where it all started) and these incredibly interesting humans that we keep hearing from. This is my newspaper!

    Reply
  2. Pat Maas

    My own observations on the subject dictate that balanced eco- systems have both grasslands and forests. What ever the mechanism behind the start and stops of the seemingly cyclical developments of these are often dependent on varying reasons. Elements of riparian portions are often a must for either situation’s long term success.

    Permaculture can assist when these eco-systems are damaged. It is important to take the time to observe and take note before acting. A simple mistake on a landscape can take centuries to repair naturally just as well done plan can assist an eco-system to flourish in the long term(many thousands of years).

    Reply
  3. Nicollas Mauro

    @evan you should read the book of Simon Fairlie if you haven’t already, it’s very very complete, with many arguments i’ve never read before.

    Reply
  4. ce

    What most (Central) Europeans don’t know is that those deciduous forest trees dominating much of the landscape could never have done this without human help.

    If the ancient Europeans hadn’t killed rhinos, elephants and all the other large herbivores, they’d still be living here – yes, even in our climate! – and ensure that an open prairie was the dominant form of landscape.

    Reply
  5. Bernie Edwards

    I think the article is interesting but is laced with considerable bias against vegetarianism which can firmly stand in its own right entirely outside of the arguments presented here. The article could have made its point without the obvious put-downs for vegetarians who incidentally represent a large proportion of the world’s population.

    I would make the following personal observations:

    Most vegetarians (and vegans) have become so by choice after careful thought, while most people who are omnivorous are so because that is simply their cultural tradition and they have not in general given much thought or done much research as to why they eat meat or the ramifications and risks of doing so.

    I think omnivores (at least those who care about their actions, so that when they eat meat they can be sure that they have made the decision to do so consciously for themselves) should take the following test:

    If you can look an animal in the eyes and then slaughter it yourself for food then you are entitled (all other arguments eg. religious, sociological, philosophical, environmental etc. aside) to do so. If you could not do that or, like myself, could no longer do that then you should not cause/allow someone else to be your proxy for the task and should refrain from eating meat. It is simply a matter of consciously taking individual responsibility for ones own actions.

    Reply
  6. Nicollas Mauro

    @Bernie Edwards

    Thank you for your comment. Yes, introduction about vegetarianism is maybe too long.

    First, i don’t think vegetarianism is wrong because in a vegetarian world, there is livestock farming and … non-vegetarian (to cull of excess males), so all advantages of livestock (use of inedible landscape, recycling of garbage and nutrients, living banks for grain failures and overproduction, etc) still stand.

    I’m more concerned by veganism, for vegans themselves regarding their health (due to differences among people to synthetize some substances from precursors (ALA fatty acids, beta-carotene)), but that’s their life afterall. I’m more concerned with their social/political project of banning livestock farming (and thus throwing out a major piece a sustainable land use as shown brilliantly in Fairlie’s book), and that their diet usually contains more annuals than an omnivorous one (considering beef on pasture, pigs raired on garbage and surplus, etc).

    I’m agree with mollison statement, omnivore diet better use complex systems.

    Reply
  7. Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor

    I agree with you Bernie. The thing I get annoyed about with carnivore vs. vegetarian arguments is that often they’re cast in black and white (like too many modern arguments, unfortunately). The meat eaters want to justify eating meat, but instead of recognising that most pre-oil/coal traditional cultures (those who by necessity lived from the resource base they lived on, rather than living from resource bases, normally getting rapidly depleted, far removed from where we live) were usually unable to eat meat very often. Armed with a quasi-permaculture argument about the merits of animals in permaculture systems, people can feel justified to breeze through supermarket aisles tossing packs of steak into the trolley like there’s no tomorrow, failing to recognise the ecological cost of its production. As you say, if you have a cow in your back yard, and look it in the eyes before you kill it, that’s one thing. The other thing, beyond looking it in the eye is how you managed to keep that cow alive until that point; was it a benefit or a detriment to your system; was their potential for more efficient use of your space (i.e. green manures), etc.? The answer to these questions depends on how much land you have, what climate its in, and how you manage it, of course.

    Likewise, vegetarians can get all ‘superior’ about their morality, whilst failing to recognise that if they switch their beef and chicken for monoculture soya and annual grains, then they’re just creating different ecological problems in different places.

    I’ve been veggie to various degrees more than half my life (and vegan for more than a decade), but I recognise that the further you get from the equator, the harder it is to have a diverse vegetarian diet – at least if you want that diet to be ethically/sustainably sourced, i.e. from local sources.

    There are no hard and fast rules here, and I agree with you that this should not laced with bias – where people are effectively getting polarised about a topic we really can’t afford to be polarised about. The environment, and the biological mechanics behind it in various climates, just won’t allow a hard and fast rule to get applied here. As I’ve said before, try telling an Inuit to go veg.

    I’m sure Evan’s debate would make for an interesting discussion. Here’s hoping the people attending have their heads screwed on. I think anyone who has tried to be as self-sufficient and self-reliant, and as healthy as possible, in the world’s colder climates will bring some needed balance to the discussion.

    Reply
  8. julie jordan

    Ethical vegans do not eat non-human animal flesh or byproducts on moral grounds first & foremost. It is wrong to eat & use non-human sentient beings for the ends of human animals. Lots has been written on the hierachical domination of humans, against other animals & the planet – patticejones.info is a good starting point. Vegan permaculture holds a number of answers to the issues raised in the article & responses, I hope readers of this site will keep an open mind to alternatives that are respectful of all animals & the earth. Permaculture started out as possible solutions to difficult problems, my understanding is its not a fixed doctrine & therefore one hopes will evolve to encompass ethical consideration of non-human animals.

    Reply
    • Pignut

      Julie Jordan: There are no animal rights in nature. None. Ichneumonid wasps do not respect the rights of their host, they devour it from within. The word “right” comes from the Indo European root word “rig” which means straightness, order and political power e.g. ray, royal, ruler, regulate. etc. Rights are a human concept, an attempt to impose straight lines onto the fractal that is nature. Ecosystems balance the populations and effects of the many, evolving, predators, herbivores, parasites, symbiotes, scavengers etc. into a greater whole. There is no lord observing everything and saying “thou shalt not…..”. Humans are social creatures have behaviours and instincts, which allow them to cooperate as groups. Our laws, honour codes, rights etc, refined over many centuries have helped this cooperation immensely, they has allowed the development of very large social groupings such as nation states and even the united nations. But the success of regulated, human societies has come at the expense of most other species on the planet (not all, rats, cockroaches, chickens, cows etc. are thriving as a result). Rights are good for humans but bad for nature.

      Reply
  9. VP

    Thanks for your addition Julie. All of these comments come from certain premises we hold about animals. Animal farming in terms of power relationships is effectively slavery, something I have never heard an effective response for to deny this is not the case in terms of definition.

    However I feel that the arguments should shift in veganism not from shall we eat animals, but shall we farm them, because many groups have demonstrated sustainable interrelations with animals, such as many indigenous communities.

    Of course modern vegan lifestyles have ecological effects however while we have the opportunity to re-design our lives and agricultures, why can we not design for minimum harm? I am not arguing for animal free systems, I am calling for systems full of animals – self-determining ones, beyond the slavery of animal farming.

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    seems to me like the only ones stuck in any kind of paradigm is anyone those stuck on the ethical rights of animals. break those chains people. i see a lot of people with incredibly scientific opinions and reasons etc. that could do with some more spirit. the world is more complex than any of us can fathom. why do you think mollison, when asked by some early student “what are you doing”, replied im just playing around in the garden. he understands that in the end we understand nothing. its surprisingly pleasant to arrive, in a way of understanding, to a feeling that you are really very small, and our knowledge of what is THE TRUTH is even smaller. regulate less and understand more. my humble two cents.

    Reply
  11. Carolyn Payne

    Julies words, Vegan permaculture are where I come unstuck with the issue of animal/meat production in a permaculture system. I can not see how we can have an effective permaculture system unless we include animals and therefor we need someone to eat them. For vegans/vagetarians to exist within permaculture they need some omnivores to complete the circle. As far as a vegan food source within Permaculture, I am all for systems that use root crops as the staple, and a touch of legume as the protein. The environmental problems lie with broad scale, bare earth production of grain crops, and the chemically dependant soy bean.
    I know of people who consider themselves vegans and permaculturists and are holders of PDCs who think it acceptable to purchase soy based vegie burgers from major chain stores, shipped from heaven knows where… an extreme example I know. Personally I have had to undo some myths out there in the consumer driven world( the people we have some hope of reaching) with regard to seperating Veganism from permaculture, as the terms bloody permaculturists and bloody vegans became interchangable in certain uneducated circles.
    The Permaculture Design Manual contains only a tiny reference to vegetarianism. Bill Mollison seems to have had little time for the issue and speaks often of the animals he has consumed (mouse pancakes). I think veganism can occupy a small niche, but should not become part of mainstream permaculture thinking.

    Reply
    • Pignut

      Carolyn Payne: surely root crops require considerable disturbance of the soil? I know that losses of organic matter and nutrient leaching are higher from a field of potatoes than from a field of wheat. Cereals are after all grasses, their root systems are dense, their stubble can be left protecting soil surfaces over winter. IMO the problems of nutrient leaching from any annual crop are greatly reduced if fields are relatively small and surrounded by perennial vegetation. Like you say the problems come from large scale monoculture. I suppose root vegetables lend themselves to mainly perennial permaculture better than cereals. Is this what you meant?

      Reply
  12. Bernie Edwards

    That’s a bit rich Carolyn. So there is no room for minority groups in your cosy little view of the permaculture world. Vegans are out, who’s next.

    I also disagree with your statement on the necessity of including animals in a permaculture system about ‘and therefor [sic] we need someone to eat them’. What is wrong with keeping animals for the pleasure of having them around and the good work that they do. It is entirely not necessary to actually eat them. If you keep one, would you eat your horse or your dog?

    I would argue, as VP does, that farming animals is effectively slavery. This is especially true if they are farmed as a food source and to eat them is only a marginal step away from cannibalism. Would you eat your neighbour? One could say that these are the actions of not very highly evolved beings and as a species we should be thinking beyond that now.

    Reply
    • Pignut

      Bernie Edwards:
      My neighbour dumped a dead horse (dead from cold and neglect) in a gully supplying water onto my land. His reason was that he was vegetarian. Local people couldn’t understand it either, especially as horses eat so much grass and therefore require so much land (in this case communal land). Horses make great salami. Had I known what he was planning to do I would have butchered it myself. I’m told dog meat is very tasty. Many city people find it hard to understand how it is possible to love an animal and then kill it. It’s hard but possible.

      Reply
  13. Chatelaine

    Last year I added just three chooks to my permaculture garden and it has made an incredibly positive impact. They are excellent to have for their manure and weed seed eating, and many other things. They are incredibly entertaining, and I love having the fresh eggs to eat. . My chooks have a big area in which to roam and they eat from the pasture of clover and grasses I grew for them and for me. I make sure they are treated well and kept from boredom. They are integral to my system. I plan to add more chooks to the system and also to start with bees. I plan to eat the honey that the bees will make, and also to use their wax. Vegans eat neither eggs, nor honey, and so I would fail on just those two simple ingredients

    Reply
  14. Evan Young

    I like what Joel Salatin says, I’m paraphrasing but its something like “everything in nature is eating everything else. If you don’t think this is true try lying down in your flower garden for a few days and see what happens”.

    Reply
  15. Carolyn Payne

    Bernie, there is certainly room for vegan permaculturists, in a niche, just like I said. And please excuse my gramatical and spelling errors, I have dyslexia. The suggestion of needing someone to eat your unwanted animals comes from Bill Mollison speaking on his PDC dvd and I believe I have heard similar things suggested by Sepp Holtzer. Trust me, I love animals, I was even a vegetarian…in a former life. I dont have a cozy view of the world and I have never said anything about sidelining a minority group, I belong to far too many of them myself. Lots of people in the world do eat dog and horse meat, I haven’t been that hungry yet myself, but I wouldn’t deny someone else their national dish.

    Reply
    • Pignut

      Carolyn Payne. As “vegan permaculturalists” (who are mostly hypothetical beings) would require a very large amount of land to produce not very much food, I’m not sure there is room for too many of them on a hungry planet. Fortunately most of them are too busy arguing on web forums to actually put their ideas into practice.

      OK I’m being flippant. I like the idea of food forests, but chickens control pests, goats can eat prunings and there is likely to be grass and other weeds to be cut back for hay or grazed by animals. If the vegans were happy to allow omnivorous permaculturists to run animals in established food forests in exchange for manure, it would be OK.

      Reply
  16. Bernie Edwards

    Hi Evan,
    It is true that in nature everything is eating everything else but most of nature is doing so because that is what most natural organisms are instinctually programmed to do. This is not a valid argument with respect to the actions of human beings. We are largely not subject to instinctual behaviour patterns because we (thankfully) operate from a capability to make choices.

    I don’t intend to get into arguments of morality associated with having the ability to choose. Every individual may have their own views on this and each of those views is equally valid, but only for that individual, no matter how many others share that particular view. I do not want to impose my personal views on anyone else but I also reserve the right to object to anyone else trying to pass off their own views as being more valid than mine or those of others. I may have stepped across that line in my earlier post in an attempt to explain my thinking on this subject but only to counter quite forceful statements about a minority group, vegans (something to which I do not subscribe but do have respect for).

    These things (what we consider eating or not eating) are at most only peripheral to permaculture, if they have any thing to do with permaculture at all. I think that sometimes permaculture people get a little too precious about their ideas on just what permaculture is about and unnecessarily try to protect the image projected externally of this thing that they have attached themselves to and somehow now have acquired ownership rights in.

    For myself, as a vegetarian, I find it distasteful that aquaculture gets so much air time in permaculture discussions but I don’t go mouthing insults about bloody aquaculturists. I just bypass information about that subject and take on board what I find interesting about other areas. There may be some who would say that makes me not a good permaculturist, but who cares. Each to their own.

    Reply
  17. A

    “I would argue, as VP does, that farming animals is effectively slavery. This is especially true if they are farmed as a food source and to eat them is only a marginal step away from cannibalism. Would you eat your neighbour? One could say that these are the actions of not very highly evolved beings and as a species we should be thinking beyond that now.”

    Farming plants only to kill and eat them or their progeny is effectively slavery too. Why does the definition of killing only apply to animals when we clear whole forests, jungles, and grasslands and poison oceans with fertilizer to plant wheat, soya, and rapeseed? Is this not slavery and killing on a grand scale? There is no equality in this philosophy, which holds one life form above and more desirable than another in a decidedly medieval, anthropocentric, and outdated “chain of being.” It is not scientifically supported by available evidence, and furthermore, ethics and morals are questionable, debatable, and ever so flexible depending on person, time, and circumstance. There are few universal morals, few universal ethics, except those which are found to be convenient.

    Animals > plants is speciesist, in the strict and proper sense of the term, in that such a philosophy and attitude shows a total disregard and discrimination for arguably more evolved and advanced lifeforms: plants. Plants and their photosynthetic kin have existed longer on this planet in greater quantity, quality, and variety than most animals have.

    Reply
    • Pignut

      A: You forgot to mention all the animals which die when land is cultivated. Earthworms (one of the most important animals on the planet) die in huge numbers when land is cultivated

      Reply
  18. Nicollas Mauro

    Please note that my original article was not adressed to vegan permaculturists, but to praise grass to omnivorous permaculturists, and i think Simon Fairlie wrote it in the same way in his book, as it is perfectly normal that for vegans grass/pasture is nearly useless, and should be replaced by arable crops or forest/wilderness.

    Reply
  19. Finchj

    Great discussion here so far, more respectful than most other places.

    I’m bookmarking this for reference later- as I, personally, have a bias towards trees.

    I personally think we need many more trees, but not necessarily more forests. I think the shifting mosaic pattern (does that exist? I’m still new to patterns and permaculture) is more accurate. It isn’t like we can’t cut the trees down again at some point and introduce grass dominated designs if necessary.

    I just feel that as a species we have deforested so much of our planet that it would be prudent to turn the tide.

    Reply
    • Pignut

      I have also noticed the bias towards trees. I did some scientific research on grass clover pasture and concluded that it was amazing. From the agricultural revolution to the early 20th century Europeans rotated crops with grass clover leys, while maintaining permanant pasture and forest. If demand for grain suddenly rose (for example in wartime) grass could be ploughed, if demand fell, pasture land could be rested under grass (returning natural capital to the soil. The system was not perfect. Nutrient leaching from a freshly ploughed grass clover ley can be pretty high (although if the land below is permanent meadow or forest, these will soak up and recycle most of the nutrients). Permaculturalists (myself included) think we have a more productive and sustainable way of producing food than this, but IMO we still have to prove this point with more demonstrably productive permaculture systems..
      Once land is forested, turning it back to productive grassland (especially hay meadow) is not quick and easy (goats will take time), and turning forest into arable land takes yet more time, energy, and (I suspect) massive losses of soil fertility (much greater than those from ploughing grass) which take time to rebuild. Grassland allows much more flexibility. I maintain permanant meadows and maintain useful trees in hedges and on slopes. A fruit tree planted in the wrong place can be a headache for years to come. I cut hay for winter animal feed and also cut trees for winter goat (and sometimes donkey) fodder, but the idea of feeding even a small number of animals solely on tree fodder over winter where I live is inconceivable. It would require a huge area of forest to be pruned on a cycle over several years. Storing tree fodder also takes up more space than storing hay

      Reply
  20. Matthew Goyette

    I want to set aside the vegan-ism vs omnivore debate and talk about the implications of Vera work. As a conservationist I’m primary interested in restoring ecological functions to restore biodiversity. Our work is based on how we think nature is supposed to behave. Vera book is a paradigm changer for how we manage view nature in the temperate forest biome ecosystems.

    Vera hypotenuse is that all major tree species which used to occur historically should be able to naturally regenerate in a closed canopy forest. Vera noted that pollen rain from bogs showed that Oaks and hazels where common in historical and prehistorical times. That oak and hazel are currently failing to regenerate in many modern forest reserves in Europe . He noted from many forest reserves that oak trees prospered when domestic and wild herbivores had very large numbers roaming them. He concluded that Oaks regenerated the best in pastures where a thick mantel of thorns become established. The thorns acted as defacto fence protecting the young trees from predations. Seedling that grew on the forest floor would die quickly from the lack of light. When oaks competed with beach trees in a canopy gap with beach usually being dominate. Slowly these oaks seedling over took the thorny plants and a new grove would be born. The process starts anew when a new gap in the canopy is created and herbivore begin feasting on the fresh grass that would grow there. Eventually the stand would die back from wind throw or old age. Vera called this processes cyclic regeneration. Vera believes that herbivores control the density and distribution of the plants they graze and not the other way around.

    Ecologist have know both parts of this process for a while but never connected the two until recently. They viewed the herbivore degeneration of the forest as some thing unnatural that could only occur with human intervention. If the large herbivores impacted regeneration because they were consider non-native or the lack of predator enabled them to get out of control in the first place. A sorta of circular logic developed that went some thing like this because the forest was closed there there was much food to support many herbivores because there where few herbivores there was no way herbivores could affect the way forest regenerate. In Europe it was viewed that human intervention enriched biological diversity by fragmenting the forest to allow my light in. Europe vision of Europe and conservation was set around preserving traditional farming and landscapes. Conservation in Europe meant subsidizing small farmers to hold back forest succession. Vera showed how futile it is to protect early succession species’s in small fragment habitats. The only to make sure these species survived in a constantly changing world was to have large connected nature reserves with there full complement of natural herbivores and predators. It basically change the direction of European conservation from protecting small farming to dreaming of wilderness. The most important implication is that forest may not be the been as the dominate vegetation type in temperate humid regions of the world.

    Vera theory is almost unknown out side of Europe. There been very little to no debate about outside of Europe. The universal understand among conservationist in the Eastern United States that forest was the norm and the herbivores had little no influence. If open land occurred was primary Hurricanes, beavers, or human ignited fires from Indians. That most modern grassland species occurring in the region date back from colonial times when the forest was first fragmented. If Vera thesis is true it has huge form implication is in how we manage deer. The high populations may not be unnatural and even essential for creating grassland habitats . Many of the most endangered plant and animals in terrestrial New England depend on Early Succession like the New England cottontail. In the United States we tend to focused more on reintroducing large predators than herbivores. Bison and Elk traditionally considered Western animals ranged deeply into the heart of forest biome. Bison where first record near modern day Washington DC. From my understanding Vera hypotenuse is still being debated. Vera theory is difficult to test because currently there no place in Europe or the Eastern United States where all native grazers and carnivores are percent. The time aspect also makes Vera theory hard to test because it takes generations to see the whole cycle from beginning to end.

    Reply

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