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Ecosystems are a lot more resilient than they have given them credit for in the past”

An Interview with Klaus J. Puettmann, Professor, Forests Ecosystems & Society, Oregon State University

Forests are among our planet’s most important human life-supporting ecosystems, and we have many expectations with regards to the ecosystem services they provide. But: How do major global challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss affect forests globally, and what can forest governance and management do? How can we deal with rising and changing demands for forest products and ecosystem services due to global population and economic growth, and urbanization?   

In order to discuss these questions, the conference “Governing and managing forests for multiple ecosystem services” brought together policymakers, practitioners and academic researchers from different fields on 26-28 February in Bonn. During this event, EFI in collaboration with the documentary filmmaker Patrick Augenstein, interviewed Klaus J. Puettmann, Professor, Forests Ecosystems & Society, Oregon State University.

In the interview, Klaus explains his discomfort with the word ‘restoration’. “We have new surprises, new challenges, and new novelties and the idea of restoration is that we use some kind of blueprint that is attached to the past” he says, explaining that he finds it more relevant for the future to look at forests as complex adaptive systems.

While Klaus has a strong desire to do his part, he explains that one of his major worries is that the public does not seem to be concerned. He draws on examples from the US, where there has recently been loosening of environmental standards under the Trump Administration. In the future, he hopes that people will see a little further than their own front door.

He also shares of the changes he has seen to the populations of the winter steelhead fish, which he has been fishing for since a child. With lower numbers, his fishing expeditions have become less and less successful and he is disappointed that his children will may not experience the same thing he did when he was younger.

Despite the current ecological crises, Klaus still finds the motivation to write about them.

“For me there are two things that keep me going, the first is that I want to do my part and I think this is where I can help out the most. And the other thing is that I think the ecosystems are a lot more resilient than they have given them credit for in the past.”                   

Klaus J. Puettmann

As an example of this he gives the incredible natural restoration of Mt. Saint Helens, which was originally thought not to recover in his lifetime. Other landscapes that Klaus says he feels connected to are the forest he grew up on and the pristine wilderness of the Oregon Coast.


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