Donate

Analog Forestry


What is Analog Forestry?

Analog Forestry is an approach to ecological restoration which uses natural forests as guides to create ecologically stable and socio-economically productive landscapes. Analog Forestry is a complex and holistic form of silviculture, which minimizes external inputs, such as agrochemicals and fossil fuels, instead fostering ecological function for resilience and productivity. Analog Forestry values not only ecological sustainability, but recognizes local rural communities’ social and economic needs, which can be met through the production of a diversity of useful and marketable goods and services, ranging from food to pharmaceuticals and fuel to fodder.

The Forest Garden Products certification standard has been developed to market products derived from Analog Forestry.

Three central concepts underlie the Analog Forestry approach:
Mimicking natural forests Natural forests provide many fundamental ecosystem functions: protecting watersheds, controlling erosion, regulating climate, cycling nutrients, and providing biodiversity habitat. Analog Forestry seeks to establish ecosystems with architectural structures and ecological functions similar to the original climax (mature) or sub-climax vegetation; that is, an analog ecosystem. Useful non-native species are often incorporated in place of structurally analogous native species, to enhance natural forest functions and provide for human needs.
Ecological succession Analog Forestry works alongside ecological succession to eventually create stable tree-dominated ecosystems. For example, Analog Forestry is often applied to the restoration of degraded agricultural land or pasture, beginning with early colonizer and sun-loving species, before progressing to a more mature forest structure, providing socio-economically valuable products throughout the process.
Landscape ecology In order to conserve biodiversity, landscape ecology must be taken in to consideration. By looking at land use and bio-geographic patterns across a landscape, one can identify opportunities to enhance landscape connectivity or protect rivers with Analog Forestry, for instance through the creation of biological corridors or forest buffer areas.


Principles of analog forestry

Observe and record: knowledge of the terrain one is working with is highly important in restoration.
Understand and evaluate: in order to understand an ecosystem, one needs to make use of local knowledge, field surveying, and ecological evaluation.
Analog forestry principle 3: Know your landKnow the land: knowing the lay of the land extends to watercourses, slopes and microclimates.
Analog forestry principle 4: Identify levels of yieldIdentify levels of yield: restoring an ecosystem can increase biodiversity, ecosystem services and economic production, but one must be aware of the capacity of the land.
Analog forestry principle 5: Map flow and reservoir systemsMap flows and reservoirs: water, light, air and nutrients flow through, and are stored in, ecosystems Knowing the enrgy flows in an ecosystem can help in planning future actions.
Analog forestry principle 6: Reduce external inputsReduce external inputs: an ecosystem with a high level of biodiversity has the advantage of providing a large portion of the necessary inputs that are necessary for the functioning of the farm.
Analog forestry principle 7: Be guided by landscape needsBe guided by the needs of the landscape: each area forms part of a landscape, whose characteristics must be taken into account in the design process.
Analog forestry principle 8: Allow for ecological successionFollow ecological succession: like a person, a forest matures in phases. Some plants grow early on, before being replaced by others and yet others, as the ecosystem progresses t oa stable state.
Analog forestry principle 9: Follow ecological processesUse ecological processes: the idea is to imitate nature, not to struggle against it. It is important to look at the ecosystem in a different way and understand the uses of its diverse elements.
Analog forestry principle 10: value biodiversityValue biodiversity: a variety of plants and animals is the source of vitality for the ecosystem, as they contribute nutrients, drive ecological processes, and are indicators of environmental resilience.
Analog forestry principle 11: respect maturityRespect maturity: the mature forest provides many environmental services and increases its productivity.
Analog forestry principle 12: Respond creativelyRespond creatively: prepare for the unexpected, and always be aware that there are alternative ways to reach your goals.

For more information, see this introductory presentation, made for use in our capacity building activities.