Reading

Before Silent Spring, Rachel Carson wrote three books about the sea, which have now been brought together in a single Library of America volume. Some of the science is dated, but these are still delightful and worthy books, and any beach-comber, actual or metaphorical, would do well to have this volume in hand.

Catchy title, very interesting book. “Algae certainly will plague us in ever-increasing numbers, but still they are a source of hope. We already know they can be harnessed to create fuel, plastics, animal feed, vitamins, protein, edible oils, and other useful products.[…] they can remediate the waters we pollute.” And some day, long after all of us are gone, they may help cool down the planet as they’ve done before in Earth’s long history.

The current edition of the Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society (149.2; April-June 2022) is devoted to “The ecology of Quercus-dominated forest in the eastern United States.” There should be a subtitle: “On the Importance of Fire.” As you may know, our oaks are not doing great. They aren’t replacing themselves. More shade-tolerant species like Red Maple are thickening our forests. Oaks need large herbivores (driven to extinction by early humans in North Americas) and/or fire (once used by indigenous peoples to clear land for agriculture and deer parks) to open up the space and light they need. But the last century, following a century of cut-over of old growth, has been one of fire-suppression. Smokey Bear turns out to be hell of a landscape engineer and habitat-master. The disastrous effects of fire suppression are more readily apparent in the West than here in the East, but they are no less profound here.

Sunday plate passing...

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