Ecological Reflections : Andrew C. Gottlieb Interviews Earth Scientist Fred Swanson When you see something like a dead snake in a jar, or a bird in a dry collection when they pull it out from the shelf, it’s clearly dead. But there’s also something about it. You can hold it, turn it over in your hands, you can examine it very closely, and from that recreate a life. But the spark is gone. The spark now is in what you make of it.
Among the Ancients: Adventures in the Eastern Old-Growth Forests, by Joan Maloof : Reviewed by Andrew C. Gottlieb Joan Maloof’s latest book, Among the Ancients, is an enjoyable, informed, readable genre-collage that takes readers to what will most likely be unfamiliar territory: Eastern United States old-growth forest. It’s easy to consider “old-growth” as synonymous with Redwood and Sequoia National Parks, with the gigantic Douglas firs of the Pacific Northwest, with Washington State’s Olympic National Forest. After all, isn’t that what we’re talking about? Huge, old unlogged trees in a few national parks? In her preface, Maloof tells us that Maurice Schwartz of the United Nations Forestry Division at one point found 98 different definitions of the term. So, old growth isn’t just giant, and it’s not just 1,000 years old. It’s really a section of forest where trees—even small ones, high-altitude pines—have been left to grow through a natural life-cycle, a cycle that increases the biodiversity of the forest itself. Maloof takes us on her journey to forests small and large in each of the 26 states east of the Mississippi, most of which contain trees that for some reason—activist or accident—were not logged early last century when the eastern part of the United States was mown like a lawn for timber during the industrial development of the timber industry and the nation’s building and population expansion. But these aren’t redwoods. Tulip poplars, buckeyes, poisonwood trees, oak, hickory, maple. “No matter where you live in the East, there is an old-growth forest you can reach in a day,” she tells us.