Returning America's Forests to Their 'Natural' Roots

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Science  28 Jan 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5453, pp. 573-575
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5453.573

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As scores of projects to save North American forests get under way, new data on how those forests looked centuries ago are fueling a debate on what ecologists should aim for when restoring ailing ecosystems. In trying to reconstruct how ecosystems looked centuries ago, researchers hope to offer a handle on how much change is natural and how much is caused by human activity. Further dogging the debate is the issue of whether restoring a forest to its pre-European settlement state is even a legitimate goal, considering that Native Americans were shaping the land long before European settlers arrived.