Yes, they really are that big a deal. Here’s some supporting evidence as to why:

What is old-growth forest?

How much old growth remains in the U.S.?

Study finds old-growth forest burns slower and cooler, preserving habitat

Importance of Old-Growth Forests: Carbon Capture Potential Grows With Age

I love visiting old-growth forests, but I can’t help but get a bit depressed when I have to return to my car and drive through much larger areas that have been logged and subsequently either turned into glorified tree farms, developments, or are struggling to regain some balance in forest succession while also dealing with invasive plant species. There’s nowhere in the lower 48 where I can walk for days through ancient forests that have only experienced minimal interference by humans. While I know that indigenous people have spent centuries, if not millennia, managing their traditional lands, their impact has largely been small compared to that of Americans in the past two centuries.

It’s true that some native species actually thrive better on disturbed land, such as that damaged by periodic forest fires or wind storms. But we have turned so much land into disturbed land, and, worst, heavily developed land, that the balance of ecosystems has been lost. The patchwork of disturbed, recovering, and old growth habitats that evolved over many millennia has been replaced by a human-dominated landscape which is unfit for many species, most especially those adapted to old-growth. This means that it’s even more crucial than ever that we preserve the fragments that remain, both to help the beings that live there as well as there genetic heritage, and to increase our understanding of the intricacy of these increasingly rare habitats.

On a different note, I recognize that not all the species in the sixth panel are found in the same places, but for purposes of illustration please suspend your ecological disbelief for a moment.

Species Portrayed: Western sword fern (Polystichum munitum), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), red tree vole (Arborimus longicaudus), pin lichen (Calcinium quercinum), marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus), northern spotted owl(Strix occidentalis), northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus), lettuce lichen (Lobaria oregana), red-cockaded woodpecker (Leuconotopicus borealis), Humboldt marten (Martes americana humboldtensis), Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia)