Friday, 5 October 2007

Building A Forest

I mentioned a couple of posts ago my great love of propagating trees, and how the new block of land was going to allow me close to free reign in that department. If I can grow a tree, then I can find a place to plant it. I had purchased a range of seed from Phoenix Seeds in Tasmania, all unusual trees and shrubs that I was not sure what I would do with if they ever came up.

For most of the varieties chosen it was indicated that they would take rather a long time to sprout, up to two years for some. All of these empty-looking punnets of soil in the glasshouse have been teasing me, with the exception of the Kangaroo Apple, a shrub native to southern Australia, which sprouted in record time, and 100% success.

We've since had some European Elderberry come up, only about 10% so far, but there is still hope for the rest, and best of all one, then another Witch Hazels, over the course of the last month. These two seedlings will be treasured and cared for, as I've never seen the plant in the nurseries, even online, and there's only one thing I love more than trees, and that's hard-to-get, if not rare, trees! There are of course other criteria, generally they will be Old World trees, which for some reason have always had a special place in my heart and mind. I've gotten over my initial dislike of our natives, but I'm still an alien, a stranger in a strange land, even though I was born and have spent all of my life here.

I think it comes down to the moistness of non-natives (the ones I prefer at least). Eucalypts and other spiny natives always seem so dry, boney almost, and perhaps it is the longing for rain and moistness, the stories of the lush England of my parents and grandparents that has warped me this way.

I also like to think of another thing. What if the vegetation of a region maintains a particular climate? There is often talk of a climate maintaining a certain type of vegetation, and our land is used as a prime example, it's dryness and heat meaning that non-natives have a poor chance of survival.

But what if it also works the other way? Trees transpire according to their type. Eucalypts only a little, whilst a hazelnut for instance will probably transpire a lot in comparison. Now that transpiration, along with other factors, goes to make rain, so the Eucalypt will only produce a little rain, whilst the hazelnut will produce more. Similarly a field of wheat or other grain will produce only a marginal amount of moisture in the air, and all of that by drawing water from the top few inches of the earth. The old timers around here certainly talk about changes in rainfall as a result of the mass clearing of certain areas around the village to turn it over to farmland.

Another thing to consider is the cycling of nutrients. Deciduous trees will drop a load of nutrients every Autumn, building up the humus in the soil, increasing it's fertility. The native vegetation on the other hand will drop firewood and tinder over the course of the year, tough stuff that breaks down only slowly and burns in preference.

Now those reading this (if any :) ) could most likely accuse me of grandiose plans for environmental engineering, and they would probably be right at a certain level. The idea is not one that I comfortably accept, for I am torn over the arguments in favour of preservation of natural ecosystems. But, sadly, weighed against that is the fact that, at least where I reside, there is very little in the way of natural ecosystem left. Change has always been a natural part of the Earth's life. At this point in it's history we need to be seriously considering creating humus and moistening the environment in order to mitigate the future effects of climate change. Cooler, moister forests cool and moisten the earth, and may be a way for us to avoid living in a parched and sunburnt country (and after a while not living here at all when it goes completely to desert)


Mumchook said...

Am definitely reading! Will make sure I call back here more often. Going to add some comments over on ALS about your blg here, if that makes sense!


Geoff said...

Thanks Ree, it did once I saw Dan's post about the entry :)