What are landscape functions? What are the cultural and scientific considerations for such a concept of evaluating a landscape? In this text, we try to find answers to these questions by examining the concept of forest functions, a concept that has been in use in German forest science since the early 19th century. The meaning of forest functions has changed constantly. Looking at early forest science literature, we find many different names for one and the same thing; therefore, this text’s second task is to offer a distinct concept of differentiation between the terms forest uses, forest effects, and forest tasks. These terms are often confused, thus understanding the slight differences between them is important to the scientific discussion.
- We can show, that from the first scientific works dating from the early 19th century on, the names of the functions of forests as landscape types have changed due to cultural demands but that the inherent meaning has stayed the same throughout all time.
We do not intend to write a history of misunderstandings or synonyms. Therefore a distinct definition of what we call a "forest function" is necessary. According to Victor Dieterich, a forest function is a societal demand posed to forests such as wind protection or water retention. Among the functions are the capital, the income, the work, the resource, and the area function. Dieterich intended to describe the relationship between forests and people. His aim was to show the role of forests to people’s welfare. His assumptions have been very influential to modern forest scientists not because he was the first one to name it, but because of his concise elaboration and logical composition of ideas. With this function theory of 1953, he formed a doctrine. The widespread references among forestry literature lead to an adaptation of his quota to our concept.
Dieterich’s doctrine of 1953 relied on earlier works. Before he had opened the theoretical discussion on forest functions, other forest scientists had published several ideas, but no coherent concepts. In 1807 Konrad Anton Zwierlein published "On the great influence of forests on culture and happiness of states". In 1825 Moreau de Jonnès wrote his influential “Memoires sur le déboisement des forêts”, which were published in Brussels and had a wide and international audience. All these treatises presented ideas of effects of forests besides wood production. These effects were known for a long time; even Plato had mentioned the notion that deforestations change the physical setting of a countryside and might even result in severe problems for its inhabitants. In the early modern time, several captains had similar notions when they compared the inhabited and clear-cut coastlines of the Mediterranean to the newly found shores of the New Indies. These notions lacked practical usefulness for a long time. When the French Revolution, with its large deforestations, resulted in severe harms to welfare, many forest administrations reported damages. This was the starting point for a scientific approach to the general welfare functions of forests. It became obvious that the public interest in forest protection had included a forest’s mechanical protective effects. By then a forest’s influence on the temperature and the humidity of the air and the ground was examined. Each result completed the notion that forests even out climatic amplitudes, that they have a positive effect on water circulation and protect against strong winds and avalanches. Around 1900, forestry science had accomplished major steps in the research on these welfare functions. But problems arose.
These welfare functions were there, as the science proved, but no one wanted to pay for them. Demand grew for protection of these forest functions, but a financial return was hard to get. Furthermore, the protection restricted wood production, the only economic resource that forest owners could rely on in the end of the 19th century. A discussion arose that even disavowed the welfare functions completely. Lehr argued that the ideas of forest welfare functions arose out of a “hot romantic feeling” but could not withstand a “cool multi-perspective consideration”. This argument lacked scientific grounding, but had some good points. His arguments were cited frequently but normally rejected as being too extremist. Nevertheless, Lehr applied a strictly economic view to the problem: A natural effect that does not pay off cannot be called ‘function’! To him, it seemed to be easier to deny all forest effects that do not play an economic role and focus on effects that contribute to income.
In 1943, Konrad Rubner had published a textbook on forestry science. Rubner discovered “tasks of forestry” and referred to Eberts earlier conceptual work. Rubner’s perspective became far-reaching, when he included social, national economic, and national cultural tasks. It grew when he thought about the people’s cultural, military economics, and military technical tasks, which could be read as national socialist aftermaths. The two latter tasks would form a military-political forest function, which would be able to elevate people’s will and force to fight. There, he took a bow in front of the national socialist policy agenda. In this period of time, all landscapes were included into a special concept that reflected racial ideas of a Germanic superiority and economic ideas of autarchy, the theory of blood and soil. Rubner did not refer literally to this concept, but some of his principles can only be understood in the national socialist context that combined cultural and military rearmament. Rubner applied concepts of “forest functions”, “meanings”, “tasks” and “effects” of forests. At first sight his treatise looks concise but in fact it lacks a coherent logic. Terms and meanings are mixed up and used as synonyms. But he can take credit for having introduced the terms into the scientific discussion. His treatise is summed up by a concept of seven “forest functions”, among which ethno-cultural, national cultural, national economic, military economic and technical, ethno-political and social functions are to be found.
Dieterich approached the forest-function-doctrine in 1953. He described the interactive system between forest and man using the terms “benefits”, “welfare benefits”, “effects” and “functions”. Dieterich applied “benefits” and “effects” synonymously. To Dieterich, benefits are natural effects of forests like wind deceleration. These “benefits” become “welfare benefits”, when they fulfil a societal demand, for example, wind protection. According to Dieterich, the societal demand is called “forest function”.
The benefits or effects of a certain forest are dependent on the characteristics of the forest and change over time. The natural effects which interact with human needs are named welfare benefits. One part of these welfare benefits is the resource-function, which supports society with forest-products. The function-doctrine differs from the job-function, the income-function and the capital-function. In addition, Dieterich described the area-function, which includes all other forest-functions like water, soil, climate, emission-control, nature conservation or recreation. Within this area-function he included a protective effect of forests. There is no stringent differentiation of the used terms. Dieterich integrated the whole forest-function-concept into the idea of welfare benefits. He incorporated the protective effect of forests in three groups: 1. influence of the climate, 2. impact on water balance and erosion and 3. non-material benefit for man. The individual functions are not independent but interconnected. Trade-offs might occur. The pursuit of each single function might challenge another function. Conflicts between different functions are identified among the resource-function and the area-function. Problems are caused by restrictions for the forestry in deference to the social services. At the same time, like Dieterich, McArdle described the multifunctional forest use as a coexistent preparation of different products and benefits at the same area.
Geared to Dieterich, Rupf discerned in 1960 the resource-function, the receipts-function and the reserve-function. Furthermore he named the job-function, the protective-function of the forest and the social-function as very important to human well-being. Like Dieterich, Rupf used the term "social services" and supposed the different kinds of protective-functions for climate, water and soil. Rupf argued that social services would follow in backwash of a common forestry. This forestry operated with the view to a maximum clear profit.
Eight years later, Hasel analyzed the future perspectives for the German forestry. The protective and the social function of forests would become more important. Often they will take precedence over other functions of the forest. Hasel designated the primacy of the resource-function and the income-function as no longer up to date. To him, the social services of forests are no secondary effect of a regular silviculture. The resource-function, the protective-function and the recreation-function of forests should be equal contents of the current forestry. The regional German situation requires the implementation of all forest-functions at the same area and at the same time. But the importance of the various functions could differ. Hasel’s memorandum could be seen as the beginning of the German concept of integrative multifunctional forestry. Hasel identified a couple of tasks like timber-production, landscape planning and human well-being. To him, not all kind of the many forest benefits would be countable in timber or economic profit.
The first guideline for mapping protective- and recreation-functions in forests appeared in 1974. Its intention and task was the sustainable protection and increase of all benefits of forests. In connection with the protective- and recreation-function, Henne used the term "infrastructural benefit" of the forest. This concept was used to map German forests, although there were antagonisms between the terms social-function, immaterial benefit, social services and the comitative effects. The idea of integrative multifunctional forestry was fixed in the first German guideline for mapping the forest-functions. Generally, the satisfaction of multiple functions was expected in one single forest with one silvicultural activity, which makes again for a conflict in pursuing each single function. The approach of the guideline separated a couple of tasks of the forest which are inseparably connected with a distinct silvicultural activity. The guideline distinguishes the three columns of sustainable forestry: resource-and-economy, protection and recreation. Potential conflicts are not specified in view of the economic-function. The economic-function is assumed on the whole forest area and not regionally specified. The German guideline integrated the water pollution control, the soil conservation, the avalanche protection, the climate protection, the emission control, screen-forests, protection of roads and protected forests for cultural or ecological aims in the term of protective-function. Additionally, the German forest function map contains other legally protected areas. Forests with a focus on recreation activities are related to the recreation-function. The second edition of the German guideline for mapping protective- and recreation-functions in forest was published in 1982 and remained almost unmodified up to now.
One year later the economic-function, the protective-function and the recreation-function were coequally integrated in the first German federal forest act. This law followed a couple of federal laws, which dissented since 1949 from the one-side focus on the economic-function. The federal forest act’s aim is the preservation and increase of the forest with the objective of a sustainable preservation of the three named and listed functions. Mentioned are in detail the ecological environment, the ecosystem, the climate, the water balance, pollution control of the air, the soil fertility, the landscape, the agro- and infrastructure and recreation. Therefore the law demands sustainable forest management.
The current guideline (2003) for mapping protective- and recreation-function in forests contains nearly the same functions of the initial version of 1974. In addition to the term “function” Volk and Schirmer uses the term "benefit". The principle demands to save all benefits of the forest by a sustainable silviculture. Effects of the properties of forests are described for all mentioned forest-functions. Diverging from the guideline’s first version, now potential conflicts between the different functions are identified. The economic-function is still assumed for the whole forest area. Using the example of the forest guideline of the federal state Brandenburg the conceptual confusion becomes apparent. The Brandenburg guideline declares that forest functions are the effects of the forest which are used for the service to the public. They differentiate in economic-, protection- and the recreation-function.
Actually, the integrative multifunctional forestry is still propagated. But current political and forestry trends are geared to an increasing focus on the economic-function. Hockenjoos argues that the multifunctional forester becomes a partial timber-producer. The director of the Bavarian forest management, Windisch, believes that the economic-function is able to achieve all forest functions – in a sustainable way! In 2009 the political scientist Krott analysed the long list of reforms of the German forest management. To him, the reform-process of the recent years seems to have the objective of an economically efficient and market-oriented management. This could turn out to become a problem for forest-functions without a demand on capital markets e.g. for the old welfare functions.For a long time, multifarious terms have been used to describe and explain the integrative multifunctional forestry. The articles contain the terms function, use, protection , social and recreation functions, tasks and effects. All along, the identified social requirements are nearly the same. Differences are explicit in the weight of the varying demands. The meaning of the used terms differs between the issues, over the years and even inside a publication. Based on the specified concepts we will try to develop a consistent idea to understand the relationship between man and forest.
Figure 1 shows the concept of forest-functions and forest-effects in context of understanding the German idea of integrative multifunctional forestry. The economic-function, protective-function and the social-function are equal aspects in the triangle of sustainable silviculture. There are potential conflicts between and within the columns caused by a couple of interactions and dependencies. The society has temporally and locally changing demands to forestry. The forest generates natural effects that are limited by the ecosystem and the characteristics of each distinct forest.
As could be proved in this essay, the forest functions very often are named ‘tasks’, ‘benefits’, ‘effects’ and ‘social services’ or ‘welfare benefits’. We suggest that a society’s demands to a forest should be named ‘tasks’. If the forest is producing ‘natural effects’ (or synonymously ‘natural benefits’) that make it possible to satisfy these demands, we should talk about ‘services’ that are delivered by the forest, whereas the term ‘welfare benefits’ describes the same but seems to be old-fashioned today. This link of a forest’s task and service can be called an ecosystem service as discussed in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
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