Dense Fiber Grows at High Altitudes
The correct choice of tree (according to what it is going to be used for later) and the right timing of the harvest are the two main criteria when working with wood in a natural way. Both measures are basic requirements for straight, stable and long-lasting wood.
The most important type of tree for building wood in Europe is the spruce. You find this fast-growing tree in lower-lying areas in nutrient-rich soil with growth rings that have up to 3 cm spacing between them. The same type of tree grown in higher altitudes produces a spacing of just a millimeter or even less between the yearly growth rings. This much finer structure has many advantages for building quality homes and furniture.
When looking at the distance of the growth rings, you can see if a tree has grown fast or slowly. The finer and more interwoven a fiber structure is, the more elastic, smoother, tighter and longer lasting is the fabric. The very fast-growing spruce in lower altitudes compare to the fine fibers of high-altitude spruce trees like jute does to silk.
For this reason, we only work with very fine fibre wood grown in the Alps (approximately 3,000 - 4,000 feet, 915 - 1220 meters above sea level) particularly when building projects with glass facades where the wood must not move or shrink.
The Natural Forest
A natural forest is another phenomenon which is important to the origin of the trees. Everywhere in the world, Mother Nature had a particular combination of trees in mind which perfectly suited the location and harmonized with the soil. This forest family was best suited to the climate zone and grew abundantly. We can still find natural tree families in untouched and remote forests.
Even though we are now being taught about the importance of natural woods as part of forestry studies, it was forestry people who, in the past two centuries, have changed large parts of the middle European woods.
A very one-sided economic approach contributed to the conversion from naturally mixed forests to monocultures, of mainly spruce trees. Until the 1970's, University classes taught that spruce trees were the 'bread and butter' of the forestry industry.
The healthiest and best-adapted natural forests which have emerged over thousands of years were cut down in just one or two generations. What has re-grown since then are not wonderful mixed woods but sickly monocultures of trees foreign to the area and soil conditions.
You won't find any pure coniferous forests below the 3000-4000 ft. (1100-1200 meters) altitude and certainly not pure spruce forests. Coniferous forests with spruce, pine and larch trees grow best at higher altitudes such as in the Alps and in north Europe.
It took the forestry industry decades of planting monocultures before they began to realize that these unnatural plantings had many disadvantages. In a monoculture, the forest floor is no longer penetrated and infiltrated with a diversity of roots and the mulch produces mostly acidic soil. Those trees then become more susceptible to insects infestation, fungus, storms and heavy snow load.
The further away from its natural environment a spruce has been planted, such as warmer, low-lying areas, the more susceptible it is to diseases and pests.
Forestry management in Austria has learned this over the past few years. Today, a conscious and aware forester would not plant monocultures of trees which might not even be native to the area. Quite the opposite, today monocultures are being converted back into mixed forests.
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