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This is a book about trees, fires, bugs, and climate change. The afterword of the book is written about the fires of the Western U.S. and Canada in the summer and fall of 2019. As horrific as these were, it seems they will not hold a candle to 2020.
Fires are not the subject of this book, but the trees themselves. In particular the author focuses on the Western U.S. and Canada, and within that vast region, the pine trees in particular. Why these? Pines are the “dry trees”, prospering for thousands of years in the relatively dry, and in the winter, cold, parts of the continent. It is these trees, what used to be vast and towering forests throughout the range, that seem to be in the most trouble.
Climate change is the beginning of every negative force facing these giants. In the past, over-logging set up a lot of problems still with us today, but now conditions are different. The dry-climate-pines evolved on the edge, parts of the continent with just enough water to support them. The warming climate stresses them beyond their tolerance leaving them open to attack by various species of pine beetles and fungus. As the climate warms the trees migrate north and up, but the diseases and infestations, also accelerated by warming, can move faster than the trees. The percent of dead trees in a given region is far higher today than in times past. It continues to grow.
In the past frequent, natural, fires kept these forests a little lean. Today’s fires, following on years of fuel build up from decades of fire suppression plus climate change are far more destructive. The most mature, fire and disease resistant, seed producers used to survive the fires. Now, even the organic materials in the soil are consumed. Little to nothing survives.
Dr. Mathews takes us from species to species and region to region, where all of these pines grow. He shows us how each of the various stress factors affect specific species and regions. The mix of stressors and effects is complex. That is what this book is about along with various human activities that might mitigate the problems. What humans can do, while potentially valuable to the trees and future human activity, is almost always expensive and cannot, under any circumstances, reverse a few centuries of human forest mismanagement and climate change. The best we might hope for sometimes is to replace some species with one better adapted to the new-and-future climate. Sometimes nature will take its course and forest will change to a dryer grassland or chaparral.
A well written book penned with a keen eye to the pine tree problem in particular. Dr. Mathews strikes a good balance between detail and overview for the casual reader. It is also another good perspective on climate change and its various ramifications. Anyone who loves being in forests, especially pine forests, will come away with a better understanding of the dangers they face. Those that live near these forests will better appreciate what’s happening around them.
Daniel Mathews writes in great depth about devastating challenges facing our forests. He treats this complex subject with a compelling narrative. He does describes all the damage we've done, he is not all gloom and doom. And the book is populated with so many rich people stories, about those on the ground, facing these challenges every day. For a long time I will remember what he wrote in the final paragraph: "For us to continue enjoying forests in the ways we count one, we'll have to change." Thank you Daniel Mathews for writing this book.
“Countless living trees in the west, of many species, predate Columbus. And suffer predation from Columbus’ heirs.” There is no better guide to the forests of the West than Daniel Mathews, author of the classic Cascade-Olympic Natural History. In his superbly researched new book on this critical and timely topic, you will encounter ancient Bristlecone pines and learn about exquisite adaptations to fires and drought. You will meet scientists on mountaintops studying pine beetles and consider the underlying causes of (and possible solutions to) our catastrophic megafires in the West. I learned so much from Trees in Trouble, a book written with both erudition and passion, that asks, what are our forests worth to us? A lot. A lot more than you ever thought.
This book is a great read and deserves a wide audience.
Naturalist Daniel Mathews elucidates the effects of climate change and human intervention (or lack thereof) on tree populations in the North American west. The reader accompanies Mathews as he interviews a host of lively scientists and describes forest settings, full of gargantuan pinecones or torched "ghost tree" carcasses, at varying levels of devastation. Fascinating breakdown of the complex chain of actions and reactions between warming climates, prescribed burning, drought, wildfire, beetle infestations, and more. I'm not typically a science reader but I was totally captivated! Despite its grim prognosis , Trees in Trouble compels the reader to consider humanity's position in the global eco system and how we might rectify the damage we've inflicted onto our beloved forests. Extensively researched but also sensorially rich, legible to the every man, and beautifully written. Trees in Trouble is for scientists, students, hikers, walkers, bikers, fans of The Overstory, California residents bearing witness to increasingly frequent megafires, and anyone who cares about the future of the natural world!
This book is a truly phenomenal accounting of what is happening to our conifer forests in the North American west. The book gives a fascinating and very well researched, balanced description of potential tree mortality and health. There is an data driven description of forestry management, that well describes controlled burns, reforestation, and disease management. As an ardent lover of the forests in the west, I never really realized how the above processes really took place, and Dan Matthews made it all crystal clear in an unbiased fashion. Anyone with the same feelings about our forests, particularly the sub alpine environments needs to read this.