Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The foest returns to reclaim

In the front of our house, which has been transformed from a dusty cliff top to a beautiful food garden, we have a small Douglas-fir that broke a few years ago and started to die. We had it removed, all but a spar standing about 15 feet high. Part of the reason the spar remains is that there is a tree house attached to it.

But the forest has been working it's magic on this tree and slowly has been converting this spar into a snag. IN the temerate rainsforests of our region, snags are the islands of life in the woods. They hold a huge amount of anuimal and vegetable biomass, and are the primary locations for small organisms that eat things and break them down to create the rich forest soils that make possible the extreme growth of our trees.

Last week a pair of pilleated woodpeckers began visiting the spar to dine on the small bugs that are making it a home. One was back this morning, and it aroused me from sleep with its pecking and calling. I had a sudden realization that the tree has transformed from spar to snag. It is now crawling with enough small creatures, that woodpeckers are beginning to accelerate the deconstructions of the tree. This morning around the base, there are small piece of bark that the woodpeckers have removed and already there are woodbugs on the underside of some of that.

In the middle of the garden, with an apple tree espaliered to it, our Douglas-fir has become a soil factory, a buffet, and a home to a thriving community of industrial little forest creatures.