6/26/2010

Don't Forget To See The Forest




Often the big trees in the Pacific coastal forest become the celebrities. It is not difficult to see why as champion trees can be as wide as a house and as tall as a 30 floor office tower. Equally as impressive, however, is the forest ecosystem in which these behemoths live. While big tree hunting do not forget to look around and see the forest. You will be amazed all over again.





This carefully knit ecosystem has been thriving for the last 10 000 years, since the retreat of the last ice age. In that time a community of living things has evolved to cooperate in a sustainable, and stunningly beautiful manner.






The most obvious members of this ecosystem are some of the largest trees in the world. But beneath the damp earth that the massive trunks rise out of, a less obvious organism quietly goes about its work.








Varieties of fungal threads run below the ground for kilometers. These vast networks of threads are now understood to be the largest living things on Earth. In 2000, researchers in an Oregon forest were astonished to find a fungal mass that was estimated to cover over 2,200 acres (890 hectares) and to be at least 2,400 years old.




All we ever see of this amazing organism is what we know as mushrooms, or fruiting bodies, which are a small part of the whole. When author and environmental activist Derrick Jensen was introduced to the importance of fungus to trees and forests he said, "I thought a forest was made up entirely of trees, but now I know that the foundation lies below ground, in the fungi."






Fungus, flowering plants, slugs, moss, lichen, salal berries, birds, and large predators all form an intricate web of life in the forest. Enjoy the big trees. And their home.



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