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Trees, Truffles, and Beasts

Trees, Truffles, and Beasts: How Forests Function

Chris Maser
Andrew W. Claridge
James M. Trappe
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Trees, Truffles, and Beasts
    Book Description:

    In today's world of specialization, people are attempting to protect the Earth's fragile state by swapping limousines for hybrids and pesticide-laced foods for organic produce. At other times, environmental awareness is translated into public relations gimmicks or trendy commodities. Moreover, simplistic policies, like single-species protection or planting ten trees for every tree cut down, are touted as bureaucratic or industrial panaceas.Because today's decisions are tomorrow's consequences, every small effort makes a difference, but a broader understanding of our environmental problems is necessary to the development of sustainable ecosystem policies. In Trees, Truffles, and Beasts, Chris Maser, Andrew W. Claridge, and James M. Trappe make a compelling case that we must first understand the complexity and interdependency of species and habitats from the microscopic level to the gigantic. Comparing forests in the Pacific Northwestern United States and Southeastern mainland of Australia, the authors show how easily observable speciesùtrees and mammalsùare part of a complicated infrastructure that includes fungi, lichens, and organisms invisible to the naked eye, such as microbes.Eminently readable, this important book shows that forests are far more complicated than most of us might think, which means simplistic policies will not save them. Understanding the biophysical intricacies of our life-support systems just might.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4465-6
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Charles J. Krebs

    We depend on forests, yet we know less about them than we should. Forests are thought by many to be economic engines, providing wood for construction and fuel and wood chips for paper. Even as tourists we view forests as a vista of trees, cloaking mountains and valleys. In this book three wise men tell us there is much more that we should be seeing when we look at forests. Concentrating on their personal experiences in the Pacific Northwest of North America and southeastern Australia, they take us on an ecological and historical tour to open our eyes to the...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    We have joined to address the ever-unfolding story of forest development on two disparate continents—North America and Australia. Chris, an American, has research experience in North America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Although Andrew, an Australian, has carried out most of his investigations in his native Australia, he also has experience in the United States. Jim, an American, has conducted much research in the United States, Europe, and collaborated for more than a decade in Australia with Andrew. The century of experience accumulated among the three of us has led to the ideas explored here.

    As you read this...

  6. 1 The Forest We See
    (pp. 14-34)

    When we think of an indigenous, old forest, we may picture a landscape of trees as far as the eye can see. Massive trunks with thick bark give rise to a canopy of branches and foliage that shuts out the sky two hundred to three hundred feet (61 to 91 meters) above the ground. Among these grand trees are smaller, young specimens growing in a struggle for light, water, and nutrients. But such a forest has two other prominent, but less obvious, characteristics: large, standing dead trees or snags (“stags” in Australia), and large fallen trees. The large snags and...

  7. 2 The Unseen Forest
    (pp. 35-49)

    The visible part of a forest may occupy a vertical space of up to 300 feet, or even more in some types of forests, where overstory trees can be huge. In contrast, the unseen part in the soil is compressed into a few vertical feet or yards (meters). Soil is the crucible in which the abiotic and biotic components of life are joined to form the great “placenta” of the Earth, which teems with organisms and intense physiological activity. Because these multitudes of organisms are intermixed in relatively small spaces, their structure is less linear and more crowded than tree...

  8. 3 Trees, Truffles, and Beasts: Coevolution in Action
    (pp. 50-74)

    In this chapter, we explore the kinds of forest fungi that have evolved, their role in forest ecosystems, and especially their interactions with the other forest organisms and the feedback loops so common to these interactions. Our primary example will be the trees, truffles, and beasts of the title of this book, but we will add other examples as reminders that forests are replete with strong, self-reinforcing feedback loops that characterize many interactions in nature and have long been thought to account for the stability of complex systems.

    Evolution has been the largest and longest series of experiments in Earth’s...

  9. 4 Of Animals and Fungi
    (pp. 75-91)

    Bettongs, potoroos, wallabies, and eucalypts; voles, squirrels, deer, and firs—the first group is Australian, the second North American. Despite their striking differences and locations on opposite sides of the Earth, each group interacts with truffles and tree-truffle relationships in much the same way. Some of the animals have coevolved with the truffles, others have adapted to harvesting truffles along with other foods. Here, we will examine how this animal-truffle interdependence has led to adaptive behaviors on the part of the animals.

    All organisms require adequate nutrition and energy in order to thrive and reproduce. In a forest environment, these...

  10. 5 The Importance of Mycophagy
    (pp. 92-104)

    Mycophagy brings together trees, fungi, and animals in unseen interactions that profoundly affect the overall functioning of a forest. As such, mycophagy exemplifies the innumerable seen and unseen interactions that proceed simultaneously in a forest, where together they provide the myriad feedback loops and subsequent diversity needed for forest health. In this chapter we will view some examples of the ways in which mycophagy enhances the functional health of forests.

    Animals indigenous to a forest’s functioning contribute in many ways to forest health, so the health of the animals themselves is important. The fungi, in turn, play vital roles in...

  11. 6 Landscape Patterns and Fire
    (pp. 105-144)

    When considering system-altering disturbances, we must recognize what sets us apart from our fellow creatures. It is not some higher sense of spirituality or some nobler sense of purpose, but rather that we deem ourselves wise in our own eyes. Therein lies the fallacy. We are neither better nor worse than other kinds of animals. We are simply a different kind of animal, and thus—as one among the many—an inseparable part of nature, not a special case apart from nature.

    As such, we will, by living, change what we call the “natural world.” In this we have no...

  12. 7 Forest Succession and Habitat Dynamics
    (pp. 145-174)

    Besides the obvious cataclysms, minute pathogenic organisms can attack a forest unseen, but with equally devastating effects. In addition, through tinkering with a disturbance regime, we can change the trajectory of an ecosystem, such as a forest, by altering the kinds and arrangement of plants within it through “management” practices, because that composition is malleable to human desire. By modifying the composition, we simultaneously change both the overall structure and function. Once the composition is ensconced, structure and function are set on a new trajectory—unless, of course, the composition is once again drastically varied, at which time both the...

  13. 8 Of Lifestyles and Shared Habitats
    (pp. 175-224)

    In discussing the lifestyles and shared habitats of those creatures that perform the free ecosystem services required by us humans, we will contrast the fungus eaters (mycophagists) of two forests in northwestern Oregon (USA) and two forests in Australia. It is our intent to help you, the reader, gain an appreciation of a few of the interconnecting complexities that constitute what we humans think of as a “forest.”

    The forest of the Coast Mountains of western Oregon is coniferous and has a canopy of three primary trees: Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western redcedar. Along the coast itself, which constitutes the...

  14. 9 Lessons from the Trees, the Truffles, and the Beasts
    (pp. 225-232)

    Drawing lessons from interactions among trees, belowground fungi, and forest animals and relating them to the policies and practices of forest management may seem a stretch at first glance. But remember, this group of organisms is simply our surrogate to represent the myriad other interdependent groups of seen and unseen organisms that form self-reinforcing feedback loops with one another and their forested environment. Collectively, these organisms, as well as the soil, are the biological capital—the intrinsic value—of the forest. Let’s briefly summarize some of their functions, using our surrogate to represent all self-reinforcing feedback loops in terrestrial ecosystems...

  15. Appendix A: North American Common and Scientific Names
    (pp. 233-236)
  16. Appendix B: Australian Common and Scientific Names
    (pp. 237-240)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 241-258)
  18. Glossary
    (pp. 259-266)
  19. Index
    (pp. 267-280)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-282)