We have all done it, collecting chestnuts in autumn. Taking home bags full of them to make “cobwebs”, puppets and other artistic creations. I have to admit, I still do that sometimes. But isn’t it selfish, to take home things that belong to nature?
In general, I would say, yes, it is selfish. If you take home large chunks of natural materials or grocery bags full of nuts and other findings, that would put a strain on nature. Because you are not the only one. If it would just be you taking your supplies from the forest, okay, no problem. But if you share that forest with hundreds of other people, then it might become a bit of an issue.
Especially in a “wild” forest, nuts are needed for the regeneration of the vegetation. They are the seeds of plants, after all. Also other materials like fallen leaves and dead branches are precious to the system. They will contribute nutrients to the soil after they are decomposed. You can’t just take all of that away and expect the forest to remain healthy.
But as with almost all things in life, moderation is key. I know you just want to take a small reminder with you. I often do too! Only a small bit of this or that, to brighten up your home, keep nature close, there is no problem in that. As long as it is only small amounts and you don’t disturb the whole ecosystem to get it.
I think sometimes it might actually be beneficial to a forest to take a little bit home. That way you will be reminded of it, even when you are not near the actual nature. It might make us appreciate nature more and make it take up a bigger place in our harts. So I will by no means tell you to stop collecting at all.
In the case of chestnut trees in villages and parks, those are often a bit easier. They are usually not part of very big, complicated ecosystems, so things can’t really go very wrong. If I think of the chestnut trees in my close surroundings, they are not growing in such places where there is space for another tree. So taking away the seeds in not really that harmful. And if one of the neighbours would want a chestnut tree as well, then he would probably buy a sapling anyway. The same goes for public parks, they won’t grow trees from seeds there.
As for the nutrients, that might have a bit of effect. But as long as there are some leaves left, it should be okay. And to be honest, sometimes those are all swept up anyway. No need to feel guilty about those either then. Trees in cities and villages are normally much more maintained by people, maybe fussed over too much even. But it does mean that you can’t do any harm by collecting chestnuts, acorns, leaves, and whatever else you may find.
All in all, when gathering bits and pieces in real nature, you should always only take small amounts and keep the ecosystem in mind. In villages with maintained trees and parks, you can feel at ease and collect as you like. But leave some for the other gatherers as well!