Witness Tree: Seasons of Change with a Century-Old Oak

Univ. of Washington. Aug. 2019. 240p. illus. maps. bibliog. ISBN 9780295746661. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781632862549. NAT HIST
This is a thought-provoking, well-referenced, and -written account of journalist Mapes’s (Elwha: A River Reborn) year spent in the Harvard Forest spanning Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Forest experts and researchers have spent decades documenting changes within trees in the area in order to reflect, with undeniable relevancy, the effects of human-caused transformations of surrounding landscapes. Mapes describes the dedicated researchers as well as she does the lives of trees—how they respond to drought, hurricanes, floods, and changing land use. The human history of New England is vividly rendered, with due reference to Henry David Thoreau and several other historical authors. Without being polemic, Mapes writes of how forests adapt to our changing world; however, the work would have benefited from a few photographs, including just one map for illustration.
VERDICT Overall, highly recommended and of interest to historians and anyone concerned with natural history.

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