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Deconstructing Definitions Of Forest And Woodland: A Proposal Of New Conditions And Criteria

827 words - 4 pages

WHAT IS A FOREST? WHAT IS A WOODLAND?

The definition of forest, mostly accepted as a group of trees of determined height, disposed in a determined density and covering some percentage of the soil, can be included in a broader definition of woodlands, often seen as a group of trees with more flexible thresholds for height, density and coverage. So, from now on and arbitrarily, when the word “woodland” is mentioned, “forests” are also included.
Referring to the introduction and analyzing the Spanish word bosque (as forest), immediately we fall into a contradiction. As said before, the word has an etymological source in the word “bush”, with several meanings. One of the meanings is “an ...view middle of the document...

The main differential characteristic respect other ecosystems is the presence of tree stands. The presence of wood, the height and the one-stem structure are the principal attributes assign to this kind of plants. The threshold of these attributes between trees and shrubs are very difficult to define because both are lignophytes, and even some so-called herbs can produce wood, such as Arabidopsis (Chaffey et al. 2002) and Phytolacca (Wheat 1977); height depends on the restriction of available resources for the plant such as light, water, nutrients and plant architecture; while the number of stems depends on the adaptability to stress (Dunphy et al. 2000; Nzunda et al. 2007), usually related to aridity, and presence of dominant basal buds (Johnston & Lacey 1983). There are other mentioned characteristics such as longevity or high gene diversity (and therefore high adaptability) (Petit & Hampe 2006).
Instead of defining trees from the physiognomy point of view, perhaps it is better to classify plants as trees from a functional standpoint. If it is possible to establish the basic functions expected from a tree, those species that can achieve such expectations under determined conditions should be called “tree”. Of course, what is expected differs on the ecosystem; it is not the same expected in a tropical rainforest than in a dry forest, e.g. a tree should fulfil a more important role in water conservation in dry than in humid ecosystems.
The same happens to woodlands; it...

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