Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tree Time

The NYT has an interesting story in its Science section today about Diana Beresford-Kroeger, a biochemist and botanist who sees trees as chemical factories.

From the story:

"She favors what she terms a bioplan, reforesting cities and rural areas with trees according to the medicinal, environmental, nutritional, pesticidal and herbicidal properties she claims for them, which she calls ecofunctions.

Wafer ash, for example, could be used in organic farming, she said, planted in hedgerows to attract butterflies away from crops. Black walnut and honey locusts could be planted along roads to absorb pollutants, she said."

But here's what might be most interesting to Midtowners:

"'In a walk through old-growth forest, there are thousands if not millions of chemicals and their synergistic effects with one another,' she said. 'What trees do chemically in the environment is something we’re only beginning to understand.'"

Both Beresford-Kroeger and Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson have proposed using stock from old-growth forests in planting new forests to take advantage of those trees' good genetics.

"'There’s an enormous difference between old-growth forests and tree plantations,' Dr. Wilson said."

I've heard local CPOP member Naomi Van Tol say quite a few times that people don't realize how old some of the trees are in the old-growth forest in Overton Park because they — the trees, not the people — might be roughly the same size as trees in people's front yards.

But the trees in the old-forest have had to fight for survival and their place in the forest, which makes them fitter, hardier, and (apparently) smaller for their age.

1 comment:

Stacey Greenberg said...

the old forest is truly awesome. too bad not everyone appreciates it.