Trees for People

This book is about the importance of trees to people as sources of fuel, shelter, timber, and recreation. It will develop as short chapters covering varied aspects of forestry and natural woodlands.


1. Reclaiming the desolated northern lands                      

Sitka spruce Kyloe UK

A commercial plantation of Sitka spruce in north east England.

Forests and woodlands are the dominant natural vegetation in many regions of the world. The areas of forest and woodland are increasing in two of four main climatic domains of the world: boreal, and temperate. Chapter 1 introduces the book by describing how the vast forests of the north regrew after the ice-age, then were used by people for their survival, development and leisure. 

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2. Energy of sunlight harvested as wood

 Fagus sylvatica leaves SMALL

Leaves of beech, a tree of great value as timber and aesthetically. 

Life on Earth is powered by sunlight and trees predominate in capturing this energy. Trees use this energy to incorporate carbon from the atmosphere to synthesize organic matter, mainly as wood. This chapter describes the pathways of energy and matter from green leaves through to harvested timber.

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 3. Leaves: when should they fall?

How do some deciduous broad-leaf tree species manage to flourish in regions that seem suitable only for coniferous needle-leaf species? Why do some needle-leaf conifers shed all their leaves before the onset of every winter? Answers to these questions may be found in recent studies showing how all types of leaves are adapted so that their gain of energy and materials is optimal under a range of severe physical and biological constraints.

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4. Roots and their fungal partners


Base of a larch tree with a fly-agaric mushroom

How roots of trees in woodlands function can only be understood fully in the context of the fungi they are symbiotic with. These are the mycorrhizal fungi that are a large and active component of many soils. Threads of these fungi wrap around tips of roots and there extract sugars from the sap of the trees. In exchange the trees gain mineral nutrients from the fungal threads. But where does the balance lie between the cost to the tree of losing these sugars and its gain from the nutrients?

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