Magazine article American Forests

Thinking Sustainably

Magazine article American Forests

Thinking Sustainably

Article excerpt

Sustainability. It's a much bandied-about word these days, and it has as many definitions as it has supporters and detractors. At AMERICAN FORESTS, we define a sustainable ecosystem as one that will remain healthy and thriving for the long term.

There's been a lot of talk about sustainability lately, most notably at the Seventh American Forest Congress, which had just wrapped up as the magazine went to press. At a post-Congress brown bag, staffers talked enthusiastically about learning different viewpoints, participating in a (civil) melding of many disparate minds, and getting the chance to meet some of our members.

What's to come out of the Congress remains to be seen. At AMERICAN FORESTS, we're committed to encouraging and fostering the dialogue that began there. We've included a brief report in this issue (page 8), and next time we'll take a more indepth look at some of the issues raised.

Sustainability was foremost in our minds as we put together this issue, which focuses on riparian forests - ecosystems that scientists have come to realize are key to the health of our waterways, our wildlife, and ourselves.

Riparian forests - those green necklaces that encircle our rivers and streams - control erosion, remove sediment and excess nutrients from runoff and groundwater, and provide shade and cover for fish, aquatic plants, and animals. Karl Blankenship's cover story on page 13 details the efforts underway to save and restore these critical areas that link land and water.

The impacts of winter flooding from Pennsylvania and Maryland to Oregon are still being tallied at press time. Forests reduced by logging and development are being implicated as one reason the flood damage was so extensive and our water quality so diminished. As the floods have shown, tree and forest cover play an important role in the health of our cities.

Need another example? Cast your eye toward Atlanta, where citizens are gearing up - and greening up - for the Centennial Summer Games. Nancy Dawe's "Sprinting Toward Sustainability" on page 22 looks at how Olympic preparations coincide with an environmental rebirth for this historic yet thoroughly modern southern city. But the story doesn't end with the Games' closing ceremonies. Like many cities, Atlanta is growing fast - and as a result growing hotter and less in sync with the natural world.

Working with high-tech computers and geographic information systems technology - and using tree cover and weather data - our urban forestry center has done an urban ecological analysis for Atlanta and its lifeline, the Chattahoochee River. …

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