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A Little Something About Trees

The following is a very interesting discussion about Trees from Peter Wohllebens' book entitled "The Hidden Life of Trees". This particular excerpt comes from the "Rotarian" magazine of April 2018. It provides a brief glimpse of the nobility and life of a Forest.

To my mind it recalls the ancient Shepherds of the Forest, the awe-inspiring "Ents" in Tolkiens' story; "The Lord of the Rings". And of course, it reminds me of why I chose "GreenWoods" as the name of my Chiropractic office; it reflects our lush outdoor environment here in Southern Maine.

In this article I have found a valuable lesson ... see if you can find it.

Above: Treebeard; Ent in "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien

Below: "The Hidden Life Of Trees" by Peter Wohllebens

"When I began my professional career as a forester, I knew as much about the hidden life of trees as a butcher knows about the emotional life of animals. Because it was my job to look at hundreds of trees every day - spruce, beeches, oaks, and pines - to assess their suitability for the lumbar mill and their market value, my appreciation of trees was limited to a narrow point of view.

About 20 years ago, as I talked with the many visitors to the forest that I manage - for the tiny village of Hummel in the Eifel Mountains in western Germany - my perspective began to change. ... I learned to pay attention to more that just the quality of the tree trunks. ...

Scientists investigating similar situations (of very old tree stumps apparently still alive after many years without greenery to support photogenesis) have discovered that (life-giving) assistance may either be delivered remotely by fungal networks around the root tips - which facilitate nutrient exchange between trees - or the roots themselves may be interconnected. In the case of the stump I had stumbled upon, the surrounding beeches were pumping sugar to the stump to keep it alive.

If you look at roadside embankments, you might be able to see how trees connect with each other through their root systems. On these slopes, rain often washes away the soil, leaving the underground networks exposed. Scientists in the Harz Mountains in Germany have discovered that this is a case of interdependence, and most individual trees of the same species growing in the same stand are connected to each other through their root systems. It appears that nutrient exchange and helping neighbors in times of need is the rule, and this leads to the conclusion that forests are super organisms with interconnections much like ant colonies. Of course, it makes sense to ask whether tree roots are simply wandering around aimlessly underground and connecting up when they happen to bump into roots of their own kind. Once connected, they have no choice but to exchange nutrients. They create what looks like a social network, but what they are experiencing is a purely accidental give and take. In this scenario, chance encounters replace the more emotionally charged image of active support, though even chance encounters offer benefits for the forest ecosystem. But nature is more complicated than that. According to Massimo Maffei from the University of Turin, Italy, plants - and that includes trees - are capable of distinguishing their own roots from the roots of other species and even from the roots of related individuals.

But why are trees such social beings? Why do they share food with their own species and sometimes even go so far as to nourish their competitors? There are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. To get to this point, the community must remain intact no matter what. If every tree were looking out only for itself, then many of them would never reach old age. Regular fatalities would result in many large gaps in the tree canopy, which would make it easier for storms to get inside the forest and uproot more trees. The heat of summer would reach the forest floor and dry it out. Every tree would suffer.

Every tree, therefore, is valuable to its community. That's why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover. When thick silver-gray beeches behave like this, they remind me of a herd of elephants. Like the herd, they too look after their own, and they help their sick and weak back up onto their feet. They are even reluctant to abandon their dead.

Every tree is a member of its community, but there are different levels of membership." ...

The article/book goes on to describe how in essence trees can have different "values" within the forest according to the varied purposes or structural relationships they may create within the ecosystem.

It can be an interesting reflection upon our human society. Different of course, but it makes one consider the value of the individual within it.

Consider that if trees and elephants (and most likely other living societies) have developed a system by which each member of the community is valued, perhaps humans can as well. What if valuing our neighbor creates an elevation in the sanctity of our own life? What if valuing the lives of our neighbor's children ... protects our own children as well?

I love Nature; it always teaches me so much!

Doesn't it make you feel like hugging a tree today?

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