Many people were out to walk off the Christmas food in Cheshire’s Tatton Park. A clear sky, sun going down, still water on the lake, trees, gathering mist over the grass – promising ingredients for photographs, despite the reducing light level. How about these trees?
This is a great time of year to be walking in woodland. Here are some lovely autumn colours from Anderton Country Park the other day.
- Oak and birch are quite subdued compared to the vibrant beech.
- Spindle and rowan give vibrant splashes of red.
- White poplar gives contrast – as the white underside of its leaves becomes prominent.
Most of the trees in Anderton Country Park are still green, many tinged with yellow and brown. Then there is the occasional splash of red, notably these wonderful Spindle Trees, with red leaves and red-and-yellow flowers. The rest of the year these trees are quite anonymous, but now, what a sight to lift the spirits!
Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees is one of those books that change the way you look at things – the world of trees and forests in particular.
Starting off as a conventional forester, he gradually became aware of the real life that was going on around him, rather than just seeing the trees as objects to be managed.
Trees are complex organisms that live in families, nurture each other, respond to their environment, live in symbiosis with other beings, have a circulation and a food system, move in response to environmental change – indeed they are complex social organisms just as we are. It’s just that their timescales are different – much more extended than ours, just as our timescales are much more extended than those of the mayfly.
The timescale for forests and their tree families measures in the hundreds and thousands of years. When we destroy an ancient forest, we are destroying an ecosystem that has taken many hundreds of years to establish. Most ancient forest in Europe is already destroyed through man’s ignorance, so it is imperative to retain those that remain – they are literally irreplaceable. New planting starts a new process of building up an ecosystem, but who knows if the insects, microorganisms and fungi (let alone the fauna) will ever re-establish themselves.
Wohlleben explains how forests act as a water pump, creating the clouds that give rain to landlocked interiors of continents. Without trees there would be far more desert.
Forests have a calming effect on weather, soak up heavy rains avoiding flooding, absorb masses of carbon dioxide (particularly the older trees), provide the environment for massive biodiversity… There are so many benefits.
And then there are the benefits of simply walking in the forest. Most of us have experienced its wonderful calming effect at some point. I guess that’s because at some level we can sense the majestic life in these great beings.
As more and more virgin forests across the world are destroyed by commercial interests, such as for growing palm oil or animal food, the loss and potential dangers are surely clear. Climate change demands that we need more forest cover, not less, to help alleviate the increase in CO2 and its effects.
The book contains a lot more insights than my brief comments suggest. Do read it. Superb!
There is increasing awareness across environmental organisations that the problems they are each individually trying to address are all in fact interrelated. Insects, birds, bees, butterflies, hedgerows, trees, etc etc. The whole web of life is under increasing pressure, both in the UK and across the world. And that is before the increasing effects of the ongoing global warming.
On land, trees and hedgerows pay a major role in maintaining a varied ecosystem and support for all these other species. So it is great to see all these organisations in the UK getting together to produce the Tree Charter.
I won’t try to summarise the charter here. A big highlight for me is the maintaining and creating of routes to ensure the interconnectivity of wildlife. Islands of protection surrounded by development are inevitably at risk as their diversity easily comes under pressure. Hedgerows and stands of trees can thus provide vital links between forested areas. And the islands need to get bigger than they are at present in the UK.
If this charter from hereon provided the guiding principles that all government agencies and business organisations work to, we can begin to reverse the downward trends and safeguard our natural environment for future generations.
Go sign the charter!
Of course, the charter does not cover everything, notably side effects of chemical industrial farming. But it’s a good start.