Monday, 31 August 2015

The Importance of Trees

On the Kapakapanui track some joker has put up a Give Way sign where the track diverges, yet I've never met another party here to give way to.
 I like to think of it as a reminder that we need trees and had better give way to them!
Give way to ... Trees
It's easy to agree in the abstract on the importance of forests to us - their role in producing oxygen, in preventing erosion, in cleaning the air, in supporting a diverse ecosystem. But perhaps harder to follow through when other human interests clash with maintaining or reviving our forests.

Te Matua Ngahere - Father of the Forest
Te Matua Ngahere is one of the giant kauri in the Waipoua forest, despite the tree's size the kauri forest is a delicate ecosystem, under threat from Kauri die-back disease, and home to unique plants, such as this climbing white rata.

Metrosideros albiflora

Do we give trees an identity so we can share our wonder at their size? 
Te Matua Ngahere is in the Waipoua forest along with Tane Mahuta, the Four Sisters and other named kauri. But even when trees aren't named, we're drawn in by our wonder of their age, their size, their beauty. 

Trampers circle an unnamed giant rata

An unnamed giant rata in Wellington's Karapoti forest is thought to be the largest Northern Rata in the world, rather obviously we call it "the giant rata".  Giant forest trees might each have an identity but the collection of trees, the forest, has its own identity too.
The forest has its own identity. 
Sometimes it's the kind of forest - Goblin Forest - or a forest in a specific place - Waitutu Forest. The names conjure up images or meanings, goblin forest in some minds is now a place to expect hobbits and elves, Waitutu Forest is known for its ancient trees.
Goblin forest Kapakapanui

Waitutu Forest

I've read that the Japanese have a word 'komorebi' which means 'sunlight filtered through leaves'. 
Sunlight filters through a young rimu and ferns
View into the canopy from the beech forest floor
So apart from naming trees and forests, we name the effects of trees. I'm pleased to learn a name for the dappled light effect, and would like to find one for the sensation of trees dripping on one after the rain has gone.
And then there are trees in the urban environment. 
There are lots of good reason to cultivate trees in the city. Catherine Kirby's Pausing to Appreciate the Trees blog on the Epiphyte Network summarises neatly the data - environmental through to economic, including data on trees in the urban environment. 

Recently I've been delighted by reports of a project in Melbourne giving trees email addresses to allow the public to report issues which had some interesting unintended consequences, when the public started sending emails to the trees. 

I'll give the last word about urban trees to a 12 year old.  In an old news cutting, talking about a tree planted in our garden at his birth, my son said:
"It's really nice to have a tree that honours me, and it is such a good feeling to breathe in the air it lets out. At night I love listening to all the insects that live in it."
The Dominion 2002

Related blogs: 

Epiphyte Network

Visiting New Zealand's Forest Giants in Waipoua Forest

Pilgrimage to a Tree - the largest known Northern Rata