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Many of us have an emotional or even spiritual connection to old growth forests. This is not just because we like to see big old trees, but because of the multitude of ecosystem services and diverse values they provide. The Forest Stewards Guild lists those services as including wildlife habitat, carbon storage, stabilization of watersheds, nutrient recycling, and biodiversity, amongst others. Old growth forests have also historically had economic and social value by providing timber products and supporting forest based businesses and communities. These forests have cultural and social value to Indigenous peoples, First Nations, and Tribes.  

In this report, we explore the different definitions of “old growth” applied globally and in regions of North America and Europe, including their scientific basis. From these definitions, we examine where old growth forests exist in the world, with a focus on the United States (US) and the European Union (EU).  The report considers why we need old growth forests, and conversely, why we do not, and includes a discussion of old growth forest protection and management. We conclude with a discussion of how much old growth is ‘enough’, how we can create more, and how our understanding of the relationship between people and forests is evolving.

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