THE TREES IN MY FOREST by Bernd Heinrich


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This lyrical testament to the stunning complexity of the natural world also documents one man's bid to make a difference on his own little patch of land. Heinrich (One Man's Owl, 1987, etc.) bought 300 acres of logged-over Maine woods in 1975 and set out to restore its ecological diversity. A professor of biology at the University of Vermont, he uses the farm as retreat, classroom, and research lab. Heinrich is a detective in the woods. He infers from the presence of pin cherries the location of old pastures and dates a 19th-century forest fire by examining growth rings and charcoal deposits. His scientific method is wide-ranging and inclusive, drawing on engineering, mathematics, zoology, biochemistry, forestry, and economics, encompassing both micro and macro views. For the former he scrutinizes saplings under a microscope and details the biochemical process by which trees manufacture wood. The big picture spurs musings on the vast interconnectedness of nature as he traces the mind-bogglingly complicated symbiotic relationships among plants, animals, and natural forces like wind and sunlight. Heinrich uses simple sketches to illustrate his explanations of the ingenious design, growth strategies, and reproductive methods employed by trees in their quest for survival. In his ultimate goal of creating a forest, a place of ""habitat complexity"" vastly different from the sterile monocultures planted by paper companies in the name of sustainable forestry, he succeeds admirably. It's a pleasant surprise, then, to learn that in the end Heinrich does well by doing good: Not only is he rewarded with a diverse plant and wildlife population, he also reaps a cash profit from responsible logging. Heinrich tells us more about trees than we'd ever dream of wondering, yet manages to transform the esoterica into a fascinating tribute to nature's superior design.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: HarperCollins