“A functioning forest is a complex form of life. It is interconnected by its own flora driven by the mammals, the amphibians and insects in it. It is kept in place by the fungi, algae, lichens, bacteria, viruses, and bacteriophages. The primogenitors of the forests are trees. They communicate by carbon-coded calls and mass-market themselves by infrasound. The atmosphere links the forests into the heavens and the great oceans. The human family is both caught and held in that web of life.” From the book ‘The Global Forest: 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us’ by Diana Beresford-Kroeger
Photo by Mithun H.
The amount of biodiversity that is supported by trees and forests is staggering. They are ecosystem engineers that grow life all around them. Trees branches reach up into the sky in a fractal explosion of leaves, soaking in the rays of the sun, transforming light into carbon sugars that form the base of the food chain - feeding insects, birds, and a wide variety of mammals. Trees roots simultaneously spread through the shallow and deepest layers of the underground world – again sharing carbon sugars that support a micro web of life that is just as active, connected and vital as the glory of the visible forest ecosystem above.
Photo by Milan Zygmunt
The Forest Ecosystems not only provide habitat for the wildlife, but in nature's constant reciprocity, the wildlife also provides vital functions that maintain the health of the forests themselves. The symbiosis between trees and the thousands upon thousands of creatures they support – from large giraffes to tiny soil microbes and mycelium – is a complex of trillions upon trillions of co-creative interactions. This dynamic interplay between trees and wildlife forms the basis of the ecological infrastructure that makes life on Earth possible. Freshwater, soil, food, air, climate, medicines, resources and even much of human economy is rooted in, and perpetuated by, this genius system.
Photo by Daniel Bouchard
We love cuddly cute animals - they inspire feelings of affection and awe. Their charisma is magnetic, and they easily command attention. Much of the focus of the global wildlife conversation is focused on pandas, wild cats, monkeys, polar bears and baby elephants. We feel the tragedy of their decline and this has alerted us to the general trend towards extinction that we all need to face and find the courage to act upon. Many of these larger creatures are cornerstones of their environments, like the wolves and tigers, and without them the fabric of life starts to unravel. These alpha animal anchors are all dependent on fundamentally intact forest ecosystems to thrive. Their habitat is their everything. Trees are the cornerstone species that create the conditions for the story of wildlife to unfold.
Photo by @nihad.vajid
Let's expand the affection we feel for the high-visibility forest friends to the invisible world beneath our feet. The wiggling, squirming, micro-world that sustains the trees and plants and therefor sustains all the above ground creatures that are so easy to see and love. This is where the majority of action is taking place. The great under-earth metabolism, the digester, the dissolver, the irrigator, the fantastic swirl of micro-chemists that enable nutrient creation, absorption and accessibility. This invisible thriving is sacred. It is the dark, earthy birthplace of life and when we learn about it and celebrate it and protect it and expand its potential we are connecting to our own survival and ability to thrive. It is the microbiome of the earth and mirrors the microbiome within each and every one of us and our very health and ability to function entirely depends on it.
Photo by Barbora Batokova
The fabric of forest life has many threads, weaving together a tapestry of biodiversity that strengthens the health, adaptability and resiliency of the ecosystem. This is why Indigenous Cultures always refer to the "web of life". It is truly a web. When a web unravels, its ability to re-form its connections and stay fundamentally intact is dependent upon how many connections it had to begin with, and the strength of those connections. As we all know, we are losing those connecting points rapidly. Restoring damaged ecosystems breathes life back into the biodiversity matrix - reforming the strands in the web. It turns a downward spiral into an upward spiral, and it all starts with trees as the anchor points in the web. Trees provide the architectural blueprints and structure for the rest of the story of life to unfold upon.
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Thank you for reading and may you be fueled by these words to take inspired action and become an active restorer of the beautiful planet we all call home.