Sunday, December 27, 2020

Thoughts on Wohlleben's Hidden Life of Trees: Insights about tree science & society

I read Peter Wohlleben's book The Hidden Life of Trees with great interest. Anyone who enjoys being around trees and is also interested in science will cherish this book. It provides many insights and a real appreciation for trees.

The insights fall into three categories. The first is the social life of trees, something I didn't appreciate before. It appears that trees communicate with each other through their root systems and through the fungi that interconnect them. They also use scents and chemicals to communicate with each other. This communication can involve a mother tree schooling the younger trees in their growth, inhibiting them from growing too quickly. It also has a competitive aspect where, for instance, a Beech tree neighboring an Oak might compete with it for water and eventually sunlight. Trees that are together in a forest can modulate their overall climate and protect each other much better than an isolated tree. In fact, forests overall are responsible for much of water's movement throughout the earth's ecosystem.

The second insight from the book is the basic science underlying how trees work. Here, Wohlleben talks about how water makes its way up trees. The full process is still a mystery, but Wohlleben describes the basic processes of capillary action, osmosis, and transpiration. He also talks about photosynthesis chemistry and why we see most trees as green but a few as red.

The final insight of the book is the practical things to know when you are in the forest. Why do you see mistletoe on the top of a tree crown? What is the effect of ivy curling around a tree as a somewhat parasitic agent? Why is moss usually on the rainy side of a tree? And, when a tree dies, why do you often see other things come up in its place?

Overall, this was a very illuminating book that I enjoyed reading, and I continue to think about concepts from this book when I take walks in the woods.

Book: Hidden Life of Trees 

Author: Peter Wohlleben 

My quotes: 

My tag (associated with the book):