A lovely read on trees of a temperate forest

Heinrich details the lives of plants and their animal companions in his 300 acre forest in Maine, with rich, but not too intricate or cumbersome detailing. Club mosses (Lycopodium) and fungi, conifers and oaks, ants and wasps, woodpeckers and apple trees all have their part to play in the drama of life in this forest. The book is written in an easy, flowing style and accompanied by lovely line drawings and attractive colour plates of some sketches.

Heinrich is also critical of human efforts to ‘manage’ forests. Although he recognises that careful and selective logging for personal uses and rural livelihoods could be needed, he declares that “The very idea of ‘managing’ a forest in the first place is oxymoronic, because a forest is an ecosystem that is by definition self-managing.” He is even more critical of plantations, especially clear-cuts and tree monocultures:

“Spraying to kill trees and raspberry bushes after a clear-cut merely looks unaesthetic for a short time, but tree plantations are deliberate ecodeath. Yet, tree planting is often pictorially advertised on television and in national magazines by focusing on cupped caring hands around a seedling. But forests do not need this godlike interference… Planting tree plantations is permanent deforestation… The extensive planting of just one exotic species removes thousands of native species.”

A good book to read before heading to the oak and conifer forests of the Himalaya: one would observe closer and learn more about these temperate forests.

TR Shankar Raman is a Scientist at the Nature Conservation Foundation, India. trsr@ncf-india.org

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