What is Analog Forestry?

Analog Forestry is a system of ecological restoration that focuses on increasing biodiversity by imitating natural forest systems in order to create economically productive and environmentally mature forests.

This methodology is based on traditional forest gardens, which are human-created analogs of the natural forest that serves needs such as food, fiber, timber, medicine, and water. It increases the biodiversity and ecological resilience of a landscape by making use of natural ecological succession and forest functions, consequently strengthening rural livelihoods.

Three central concepts underlie the Analog Forestry approach:

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.

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.

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.

Analog Forestry Principles

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.

Know the land:

knowing the lay of the land extends to watercourses, slopes and microclimates.

Identify 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.

Map flows and reservoirs:

water, light, air and nutrients flow through, and are stored in, ecosystems Knowing the energy flows in an ecosystem can help in planning future actions.

Reduce 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.

Use 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.

Value 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.

Respect maturity:

the mature forest provides many environmental services and increases its productivity.

Respond creatively:

prepare for the unexpected, and always be aware that there are alternative ways to reach your goals.

Be 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.

Follow 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 to a stable state.

Learn about Analog Forestry

Explore our training opportunities

Follow our free introductory course at your own pace