The West is full of magnificent trees: mighty spruces, towering cedars, and stout firs. We are used to appreciating trees during their glory years, but how often do we consider what happens to a tree when it dies? We've all seen driftwood on the beach. But how many people have truly looked at it and appreciated its ecological role?
Ellen Wohl has thought about these questions, and in Dead Wood, she takes us through the afterlives of trees, describing the importance of standing and downed dead wood in forests, in rivers, along beaches, in the open ocean, and even at the deepest parts of the seafloor. Far from being an unsightly form of waste that needs to be cleared away, dead wood is a critical resource for many forms of life.
Dead Wood follows the afterlives of three trees: a spruce in the Colorado Rocky Mountains; a redcedar in Washington; and a poplar in the Mackenzie River of Canada. Wohl encourages readers to see beyond landscapes – to appreciate the natural processes that drive rivers and forests – and demonstrates the ways that the life of an ecosystem carries on even when individual members of that system have died. Readers will discover that trees can have an exceptionally rich afterlife – one tightly interwoven with the lives of humans and ecosystems.
Ellen Wohl grew up in northern Ohio, where she became fascinated with the natural world in early childhood. Family trips to the western US introduced her to the Rockies and, after finishing undergraduate and graduate degrees in geology, she joined the faculty of Colorado State University. She has conducted field research on every continent except Antarctica.