Recently having read in ‘A Planet of Viruses’, that viruses help in photosynthesis, I was curious if ‘The Man who planted trees’ book by Jim Robbins would have anything on it. It does mention the role of viruses in generating new diseases. Reading ‘Sex on six legs’, where it is all about the intelligent and good things that insects do, this book looks at the other side to see what harm insects do to the trees. Even this book like the six legs book quantizes the good done by its subject in terms of money.
And the subject is ‘Trees’ although it is on ‘The Man who planted Trees’. That man’s mission was to safeguard trees by saving genetics of the oldest trees to store it for future study when better tools are available and by cloning the trees. I realize that this review is partial to the trees.
Fader, zoonotic, wind training, dimensional stability, edge effect, forest migration. There are many terms like these about trees which are unknown to the general public. The author uses his skill of science writing and explains the terms and concepts thereby holding the readers attention and giving them a learners high to keep on going. He is comfortable in donning the hat of explaining science of how insects go about destroying trees, how trees work at cleaning up the air, creating clouds as well as portrayal of David Milarch who came up with the Champion project. I have not heard of this project before. So there you see, why there needs to be a book like this.
It is two books one that serves as a natural history of all major trees and another of the Big Tree project which is a brainchild of David Milarch who was inspired to do this project from a Near Death Experience. Milarch’s project’s course, tribulations and successes are documented. Instead of lamenting about global warming and how we are clueless as to what to do, here’s a ‘done it’ and the author’s ‘Bioplan’ calling for steps that have all been reached at with research in the past few years.
Each tree’s characteristics and their benefit to humans are well described. The author brings across the point about how human actions detrimental to the trees, disable the trees from taking caring of us and the planet by the ways available to it. For example human induced drought kills the trees and deforestation causes floods. A direct relation has been found between trees and their ability to cause rain with the help of a microorganism that can help form clouds. Trees provide home to a wide variety of species. A delicate balance is being tampered with human actions.
The book is based on research done in the last decade. The research as well as the cases mentioned spans the globe. By admitting that there is still so much unknown to the scientists regarding trees functioning but phrasing the unknowns will pique the interest of budding ecoscientists.
The author has managed to keep the readers in the magic of science with not just enhancing our current knowledge about trees but also explaining wherever possible why something is done the way it is done. I found many interesting facts in the book (too many to list). How some trees are hard to date by the ring counting method, when the growth is not from the main stump, how the aerosols emitted by the trees are helpful in preventing and treating cancer and many other medical conditions, how Phytoplanktons that generate 90% of the oxygen need trees to filter polluted water, how the wind event in Canada caused a large population of beetles to move to another forest causing more destruction but that is supposed to be good too in fertilizing the soil.
Few eye opening quotes:
Less diversity means less opportunities for adaptation – Reed Noss.
When the Europeans landed, the forests were so thick its often been said that a squirrel could travel from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi river without touching the ground.