The book of the month – The Hidden Life of Trees

"If we want to use forests as a tool in our fight against climate change, we must let them grow old".

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate―Discoveries from A Secret World

Peter Wohlleben, HarperCollins

How many of us consciously realize the value and magic of trees? How many of us realize that these are highly sophisticated entities? The admiration and respect for the plant world, for those who have the slightest contact with it, is unlimited. Some call us tree huggers as if it is something bad! I have to say that the tree enjoys it as much as we who embrace it at that moment.

And yet, trees have a voice and their own way of sending their messages with vibrations through their root system but also through the leaves. The whole tree is a vibrant being and reveals its state at all times.

Those who think that communication is only a human trait need to have a better look. Animals have a clear way of communicating, and especially those who have pets have seen that animals communicate with each other and with other species, and with humans. Those who have plants also develop a special relationship with them. Research has shown that plants perceive more than we thought until now, they are sensitive to touch and sound.

These wonderful creatures, the trees, have developed alert mechanisms through their root network that touch each other so that information can travel to all nearby neighbors. They also send pheromones through the leaves to alert nearby or more distant trees through the air. When they are in danger such as e.g. a fire, they send signals through their network of roots to neighboring trees to be able to send their seeds to the ground.

Trees have the ability to learn and store information. The exact point of storage of information has not yet been discovered, but it has been shown to have the ability to learn. “The center of intelligence of memory and emotions is like that of animals and the separation of plants and animals tends to be lost,” was one of the most beautiful parts of the book.

If someone really wants to understand what the economy is, they need to study nature more intensely and more. There is nothing that is random, nothing that is not in harmony, nothing that is “unsustainable”, everything is recycled. Trees know what economy means because there are periods of drought. They know how to allocate available stocks for their needs. When a tree has not yet been “trained” in this way, it becomes very difficult in times of drought. An additional lesson we learn from plants and trees is that of self-healing. When a tree is diseased by invaders, fungi, parasites, the neighbors send nutrients through their roots to support it, and the tree itself changes its chemistry to change its taste, its chemical composition, so the harmful organisms to be removed.

Nature always finds a way to balance, with slow processes, it seems like nothing is in a hurry in terms of human understanding, but a 100-year-old tree for the life of trees looks like a toddler! There is a misconception that the younger you are and the more productive you are just like humans, but the trees work the other way around, and the older they get, the more productive they become. As Peter Wohlleben informs us, “If we want to use forests as a tool in our fight against climate change, we must let them grow old”. Nature has the wisdom to adapt the growth of trees according to the CO2 found in the atmosphere. The higher the carbon dioxide, the more the trees are rushed to grow.

Of course, trees do not live alone. Just as we need the intestinal microbiome to stay in balance, a forest needs mites, germs, and fungi in the soil that help it in all its processes. There is a balance that makes these mechanisms useful, and the damage is created when they go out of balance. Just like all living things.

In this book, the chapters are small but very condensed and give a lot of information about the magical world of trees and forests. Forester Peter Wohlleben’s research makes us want to spend more time near forests, just observing the harmony of the landscape, and the performance in Greek by Giota Lagoudakou is excellent. As the tour of the majesty of nature progresses, it reminds us to be humble, and that respect for all living beings is essential. Man needs to take a step back, to remain in observation, because he is a part of this whole and there are so many treasures waiting to be discovered. What we call ecology is a daily decision, a daily act and it concerns us all.

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