Analog Forestry (AF) is a new technique in Canada, similar to agro-forestry, the principles of which are gaining momentum in both the public/private domains (re: ALUS (Alternative Land Use Service), “Eco-Buffers” and shelterbelt work in Southern Alberta, etc).
The idea behind AF is to re-create the STRUCTURE of a natural forest while planning your planting activities on a piece of land you wish to restore. This, as you will see, leads to sustainable successional regrowth of a forest that is designed to bring goods or services to the landowner. These goods are called “Non Timber Forest Products” (NTFP’s) and include such items as medicines, fuelwood, food and edibles, craft items, and natures benefits.
To give you an idea of how this technique is applied, the best way to understand it is to first select a forest that you enjoy and would like to recreate on your property. Take a step into that forest (or ecosystem, such as a grassland) to look around at its structure. This forest or ecosystem that you have selected will be your model for how you lay out the design and select species to grow on your own land. While visiting this area, look at the height at each level, the density at each level, and the types of species. AF has a ‘form’ where these are annotated and then compared to what currently exists in the area you are planting. The pieces that are missing on your property are then selected to this formula.
Plants are selected according to the goods or services that they can bring to the landowner (for example, you may select all fruit species, or if you want to draw in animals, select species with fodder for animals, not to mention medicinal, artesenal, or recreational value of the plants). These species are then arranged according to the space, microclimates, landscape, geography, and soil conditions of the land (all of which is considered prior to selecting species).
Then, you let your forest grow with minimal maintenance. With these techniques and our local landscape in Bruce County, AF is used best a method to create what is known as a ‘Working Buffer Strips’. The areas of land which undergo planning, design and implementation of AF will, over time, allow owners and residents of our watershed area to enjoy increased amounts of natures (or “Ecological”) benefits with productive, working land and various non-timber forest products. Best of all, this technique does not compete with farming practices that dominate our landscape.
At this time, specialists are both rare and valuable for the future of this emerging field and to be successful, small amounts of planning and preparations are required throughout the year.
Currently, work is underway through a collaboration with Green Feet and other organizations to prepare documents and applied sites for successful adoption of this technique, including the following activities: creation of a species database appropriate to the Bruce County area; capacitation for landowners/farmers; research on plant/seed locations throughout the area; and seed collection (towards the fall season) to be grown/planted the following season.
Previous Work with Analog Forests
Green Feet has mainly worked with Analog Forestry in Cuba through work done with the Falls Brook Center (Sustainability Education Center, NB) and the Pine River Watershed Initiative Network (Ripley ON)
The picture above is an Analog Forest after 3 years of growth. On this site, located in Guantanamo Cuba, 14 farms totalling 241ha were designated as Analog Forestry experimental sites following a demand for sustainable farming and forestry activities that would help to restore devastated soils in Southern Cuba. Extensive sugar cane plantations in this region had depleted soil nutrients as well as leading to salination of the soil from
capillary action connected to the close salty ocean shoreline. Analog forestry proved to be the best fit for the job because of the ability to produce food, medicinals, firewood, artesenal products for the farmers while improving soil health *Green Feet did NOT lead this project, but was contracted to assist with planning and capacitation.
In able for Green Feet to create an analog forest, first, a plan was always made for where the work was being done. The photo on the left details the site plan for the first Analog Forest that would be incorporated into the strategic plans of a Watershed restoration group called “Pine River Watershed Initiative Network”. In Ripley ON, this area is dominated by conventional farming. Including Analog Forestry into marginal land to create “Working Buffer Strips” is part of a project that is currently ongoing.
Without the aid of Gidital technology, while working in Guantanamo Cuba, one can see that hand drawn images (such as the one to the right) were just fine to use in order to give farmers an idea of what would be planted and where.
Crucial to the work in Cuba was the need for farmers to become empowered, thus creating a self sustianing systems of forestry and production. Seeds were collected from trees, or fruits purchased at the market, then grown to be planted around the farmers properties.
After 6 years of work, maintaining and continually adding more species as microsites become available, the above picture showss a productive analog forest. One can see the immediate benefits of fresh fruits being available to consume, and the long term benefits of a sloping landscape having been terraced and stabilized. ,