The Power of Trees: How Ancient Forests Can Save Us if We Let Them

Greystone. May 2023. 280p. tr. from German by Jane Billinghurst. ISBN 9781771647748. $28.95. SCI
Expanding on his 2016 The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World, Wohlleben shows how forests function as complex biological systems composed of trees, of course, but also how trees interact with other plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms that people are only just beginning to understand. Natural forests have many positive impacts on the environment, not just through carbon-capture as carbon dioxide is turn into wood, but also by lowering atmospheric and ground temperatures and acting as reservoirs and pumps in the precipitation cycle, Wohlleben writes. This complexity has evolved over generations of trees’ decades- and centuries-long lifespans, lending resilience to forests in the face of environmental crises of climate, pollution, and drought. However, threats to forest health are intensifying rapidly, and human interventions to save the trees can do more harm than good. Wohlleben argues that a hands-off policy would allow German forests (and others, by extension) to recover better than the current capitalist approach to forest management that seeks short-term solutions, such as replacing old-growth hardwood forests with ill-adapted conifer plantations.
VERDICT This book inspires wonderment at the resiliency of forests facing climate change, while taking a critical look at how even the best of environmental intentions may have long-lasting negative consequences.
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