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Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England (Nature)by Tom Wessels
Synopses & Reviews
A full and wholly original portrait of New England's forests, tracing their evolution from pre-colonial days to the present through a study of the patterns we see today. Read this book, is many fans have said, and no walk in the woods will ever be the same.
Most books and courses on natural history focus on the identification of one small aspect of the complex world outside our doors. We may know how to identify our neighborhood trees but not know why pine are dominant in one place and maple in another; we may notice fungus growing on a beech trunk but not know the devastating impact of blights on our forests over the centuries. Tom Wessels, who has spent more than twenty years interpreting New England's landscape and teaching others to see "the forest for the trees," argues that by coming to a fuller understanding of our home ground, we achieve a greater sense of place.
An intrepid sleuth and articulate tutor, Wessels teaches us to read a landscape the way we might solve a mystery. Each chapter addresses a form of forest disturbance common in New England--fire, logging, and blight are examples--and depicts it in an extraordinary, full-page etching. Studying Wessels's descriptions of forest scenes in conjunction with Cohen's visual portraits teaches us to identify disturbance patterns and, in turn, to take our discoveries outside and read the history written in the character of the land.
Landscape is much more than scenery to be observed or even terrain to be traveled, as this fascinating and many-layered book vividly shows us. Etched into the land is the history of how we have inhabited it, the storms and fires that have shaped it, and its response to these and other changes.
An intrepid sleuth and articulate tutor, Wessels teaches us to read a landscape the way we might solve a mystery. What exactly is the meaning of all those stone walls in the middle of the forest? Why do beech and birch trees have smooth bark when the bark of all other northern species is rough? How do you tell the age of a beaver pond and determine if beavers still live there? Why are pine trees dominant in one patch of forest and maples in another? What happened to the American chestnut? Turn to this book for the answers, and no walk in the woods will ever be the same.
About the Author
Tom Wessels is an ecologist and the author of Reading the Forested Landscape and Forest Forensics. He is the director of the Environmental Biology program at Antioch New England Graduate School.Brian D. Cohen is a printmaker, artist, teacher, and publisher of fine edition letterpress books.
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