Hi, I've been working on my farm and creating various zones based on observations of the land and weather conditions and at the same time working to stay within the guidelines of permaculture. I'm currently working on a forest type situation to plant in my very windy location which will not be just an edible planting but also a healthy addition to this location. My biggest problem has been identifying tree species native to this area as the old growth trees I've found much evidence of no longer are found here and haven't existed for hundreds of years. So what I'm doing is clear, this is a strong attempt to assist on many levels the immediate environment-this including soil groups of life, plant guild members and the assorted other life forms and their guilds too numerous to mention(birds, animals, etc.). I will take suggestions as know my problem isn't unique.
I'm not really sure what you're asking. If species haven't existed in your area for centuries, then they are probably no longer suited to current conditions; I wouldn't think of them as native. You haven't said what region you live in, so I don't know what resources to recommend in the way of native plant books; but every place has them, as well as native plant societies which are great resources. Windbreak trees are not usually native; they're usually chosen because they are the best possible wind-proof trees, and not because they happen to currently be living in a specific place. So if you've asked a question that I missed, try again.
I farm in central NM in a place called the Estancia Valley. Similar to other areas where the best wood trees are harvested out first what is often left are species that are native but not as desirable. That's what happened here.
Chinese elm and other trees such as cottonwood are not native to NM often have been used as windbreaks.
What I've done is paid attention to annual precipitation information over the last few hundred years-from sources as broad as weather service to tree rings from large trees downed(up to 1000 years old). I've also looked at different pueblo ruins and old homesteads(have done a fair amount of scavenging wood from demo jobs)etc. and all in this area.
With that said, I have a fair idea of what needs to be planted. What I was getting at that if such places as your own NW location have been logged like this one was and there was no longer Douglas fir or old growth how would you restore it? This is with recognition of all layers of life that support forests.
I'm working on planting a forest of a few acres at this point. Working off the premise of dry land permaculture with a few additions of my own that have come through observations-many of them over years in this location. It's not a perfect knowledge by any means, but it's a beginning point. Still much to be learned! )
What I was getting at that if such places as your own NW location have been logged like this one was and there was no longer Douglas fir or old growth how would you restore it?
Well, that's one of those "it depends" questions. I'm not a "natives only" person, so if the land were not in wilderness--say it had been in crops or tree farm or grazed for a century or two, I'd might work on pointing it toward food forest and timber production. If it were surrounded by wild land, I'd try to connect it to the rest of the ecosystem. If there were people living on it, I'd use some of it to produce what the human inhabitants needed, and the rest, the majority, for habitat and ecosystem services like cleaning air and water. But there are thousands of species that can do that, so I'd try to choose those that would thrive in current conditions, regardless of whether they were native or not, since, if the soil were now compacted or gone, or the climate had warmed since natives were last there, or any other major condition had changed, what was formerly native might not do well there anymore. Obviously you don't use untested or potentially rampant species to do that, but there's still a lot to choose from.
The land I used to live on was 150-year-old Doug fir forest. But among those firs were, about one per acre, 400-year-old oaks, a remnant from the previous 6000 years or so when native people burned the area regularly to keep it as open savanna. So which landscape was natural: the firs, which thrive when humans suppress fire, or oak savanna, a product of human burning? When we restore, we restore to our idea of what belongs there, which can be very different from what nature might do if we weren't there. Nature doesn't care whether a plant is native or not;if it's there and can do the job, be it Scot's broom, tamarisk, Russian olive, or Douglas fir, she'll use it. So I try to figure out what will create a healthy ecosystem and plant that. Nature is re-combining plants in novel ways all the time, and some of those combinations of "natives" and "exotics" that she's using can teach us a lot.