Monday, October 5, 2009


We need our forests. It was only recently that I learned how much we need them.

Forests are essential to a stable oxygen cycle; far more than previously realized. They outstrip the oceans in this function. In fact, our oceans are fast becoming oxygen consumers with all the mercury being dumped into them. Forest waste also dumped into the sea is creating huge amounts of oxygen consumption in decomposition. Forests lock up carbon dioxide. Decomposing forests release carbon dioxide. The rate at which primeval forests are being destroyed is indicative of how little the value of such an integrated bio-mass is understood.

Forests provide a large amount of our precipitation [The falling to earth of any form of water (rain or snow or hail or sleet or mist)]. Cut away forests from ridges and you can reduce rainfall in the area as much as 30%. But rainfall is not the whole picture; full precipitation losses can be as high as 86%. Thus, semi-desert conditions can very rapidly be produced. Biomass [The total mass of living matter in a given unit area] will rapidly diminish without this life-giving essential moisture.

Forests buffer an environment against extremes. They temper cold and heat, wet and dry, and moderate pollution. They are also a major soil factory of the world. Add to this that if we cut away our trees we lose the soil already made, even as far away as 1000 miles from the destroyed watershed. [A ridge of land that separates two adjacent river systems.] Climate change is occurring – not in that we are gravitating towards a greenhouse effect, or, as was scientifically projected back in the 70’s, toward an ice age – but in that an unpredictable pattern is forming that swings erratically between. The destruction of our forests has a part to play in this. [see ]

The loss of forest species from pathogens and pests has started occurring with alarming frequency. First the Chestnut was hit with blight. Then the elms, and now beeches, eucalypts and oaks. There is great consternation over the insects that are preying on these trees, but Bill Mollison puts forward that these insects are merely feasting on a dying forest system. These predatory insects smell the death and come for their food. This is much in line with the Trophobiosis Theory of the French botanist Francis Chaboussou.

Trophobiosis is based on the premise that pests shun healthy plants. Weakened plants open the door to pests and disease. Francis Chaboussou (1908-1985) was an agronomist for France’s National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA). His thesis “Healthy Crops: An New Agricultural Revolution” was finally made available in English. He speaks against the use of pesticides. They weaken plants, and weakened plants open the door to pest and disease. To use further pesticides to control these pests is to further weaken the plants and aid in their demise. Traditional thinking is that pests develop a resistance to a particular poison and so the onslaught against the pest is increased. Chaboussou declares that the plant is further debilitated and so attracts even more disease and pests. A healthy plant shuns pests. An unhealthy plant sends out signals that attract pests and pathogens.

Trophobiosis is derived from two Greek roots: trophikos (nourishment) and biosis (life). Chaboussou says “the relationships between plant and parasite are primarily nutritional”. This should not be too surprising. Humanly speaking, the difference between health and disease in man is primarily nutritional.

Returning again to Bill Mollison and what he has to say about the death of so many major tree species, we see him confirming what Mr Chaboussou had found to be true. He blames humans and not bugs for the demise of these trees. When speaking of the bugs he says, “What attracts them is the smell from the dying tree. We have noticed that in Australia. Just injure trees to see what happens. The phasmids [Large cylindrical or flattened mostly tropical insects with long strong legs that feed on plants; walking sticks and leaf insects] come. The phasmid detects the smell of this. The tree has become its food tree, and it comes to feed.”

Let’s talk about rising salts in the demise of forest species: When rain falls on forests we have water storage. When forests are removed we have evaporation. When forests absorb this rain it travels downwards and takes with it salts produced from the breakdown of rocks. The trees act as biological pumps that keep these salts at deep levels. Any evaporation from the leaves of the tree is pure water. This is all good for the atmosphere and the soil. When the forests are removed and the salt levels rise to three feet below the surface then trees are suddenly and mysteriously affected by bugs and pathogens. The real cause is the imbalance in the soil caused by rising salts. The onslaught on the tree makes it susceptible to pests and disease. When these trees die and salt levels rise higher, then crops are affected too and become weakened. When salt levels rise to the surface then we have created an inhospitable soil environment that is easily seen.

Forests recycle water. It is vital that this water is recycled into the atmosphere in order to have the necessary precipitation upon the earth. Contamination of existing water supplies is at an all time high. Should we diminish this recycled water still further we could be in very serious trouble.

We need our forests.

Plant a tree; and if you can, plant a forest.

I want to plant a food forest. Join me. I have lots to learn but will share as I do. I would love to hear from others too. Let us leave a heritage that is sustainable and worth giving to our children.

Until next time,


Photos courtesy of me, morguefile, morguefile, and freerangestock (in that order). Thank you.