Saturday, February 24, 2024

Review of The Secret Network of Nature: Trees, Animals, and the Extraordinary Balance of All Living Things-- Stories from Science and Observation by Peter Wohlleben

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Science
Book Club Event = Book List (08/10/2024)
Intriguing Connections = 1) Earth's Flora and Fauna, 2) How To Allocate Resources?

Watch Short Review


“Deer have a love-hate relationship with trees.  Deer don’t actually like forests, but we think of them as forest animals, because that’s where we find them most often.  Like all large animals that eat plants, deer have a problem: they can only eat vegetation they can reach.  And usually, the vegetation available to them has armed itself against herbivorous attack.  The usual arsenal of vegetative defensive weapons includes thorns and barbs, toxins, or thick, hard bark, but trees in Central European forest have developed none of these defenses.” – Peter Wohlleben, Chapter 4: Why Deer Taste Bad to Trees, Page 53

“Dead animals are often the cause of fights, and wolves lose out when brown bears turn up.  Then it’s best for the pack to head for the hills, particularly if they have pups, which a bruin could easily scarf down as a snack.  Ravens have a role to play here: they spot bears from afar and help wolves by alerting the pack to approaching danger.  In return, wolves allow ravens to help themselves to a share of the booty – something the birds wouldn’t be able to do without the wolves’ permission.  Wolves would have no difficulty making a meal of ravens, but they teach their offspring that these birds are their friends.  Wolf pups have been observed playing with their black companions; the young wolves imprint on the smell of the ravens and come to regard the birds as members of their community.” – Peter Wohlleben, Chapter 7: The Funeral Feast, Pages 88-89

In my opinion, the much-vaunted supposed benefits of releasing nutrients by flames and recycling dead biomass through fire are myths that downplay the disruption caused to this sensitive ecosystem by people playing with fire since prehistoric times.  In the normal course of events, it is not fire that releases stored nutrients and makes them available to new plant growth in the form of ash; it is the billion-strong army of animal sanitary engineers that undertakes the drudgery of decomposition (and they are completely incinerated in large forest fires, because, unfortunately, the little fellows are thin skinned).” – Peter Wohlleben, Chapter 13: It Doesn’t Get Any Hotter Than This, Page 183


Is This An Overview?

Everything in nature is interconnected.  A species effects the ecosystem around them.  A cycle of life as nutrients from the dead feed the living.  Many animals fight for nutrients provided by other dead animals.  Nitrogen is a reactive compound that enables the growth of vegetation, but is rare in nature.  Nitrogen can be provided by dead animals around them, or alternatively, the winds can carry it.  Nitrogen is a by-product of burning fossil fuels that can be carried long distances on the wind, to come down when it rains.  Trees have been aware of the emissions as they have been growing faster when emissions rose.  But growing too fast makes them vulnerable to fungi and other predators.  Fires have been a way to recycle dead biomass, but that also incinerates the natural sanitation army of animals that decompose and release nutrients.  Rain can provide sustenance, but heavy rain can carry away valuable soil and nutrients.

Animals communicate, between their own species and other animals.  Even vegetation has a communication method, a wood wide web.  Much like animals have defenses against predators, vegetation has defenses on those that prey on them.  Reproduction is attuned to winter losses, but humans can intervene to feed animals and prevent losses, which means more animals available after winter.  Increased population of a species effects how they compete with other animals, and how much vegetation there is.  Hunters have participated in feeding animals, to have more animals to hunt.  People can also protect animals, a desire usually fostered when people engage and connect with animals, such as through zoos. 



The ecosystem is complex.  Complexity that makes it difficult to understand how everything is interconnected.  This book shares some connections that are known, with different interpretations.  There are many connections not yet known or understood.

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•How is nature interconnected?
•How do wolfs effect the ecosystem?
•How do radio collars effect wolves? 
•Are wolves dangerous?
•How similar or different are the predatory behavior of wolves and bears?  How do they effect the ecosystem?  
•How do salmon effect trees? 
•What does nitrogen effect plants? 
•What do heathers and junipers signal?
•What is the effect of synthetic fertilizers?
•What are the benefits and dangers of rain? 
•Are deer forest animals?
•Does vegetation have defenses? 
•How do trees taste to deer?
•Why do ants protect aphids?  
•Which trees do beetles prey on? 
•How do wolves and ravens interact? 
•What types of camouflage are there?  How does camouflage work during the day and night? 
•How does artificial light effect moth behavior? 
•How does light effect the night?
•Who are attracted to light? 
•How do birds choose their routes? 
•How to crows react to being fed? 
•How to protect animals?
•How can zoos effect people? 
•How does bait effect a species? 
•How many types of animals and plants are there?
•How do fungi behave? 
•Can animals communicate?
•Can plants communicate? 
•What is the effect of fire?
•Are forests acquainted with fire? 
•How should dead biomass be recycled? 
•What is nature? 
•What happened to the megafauna? 
•How do humans effect nature? 
•How many species go extinct? 

Book Details
Translator:              Jane Billinghurst
Original Language: German
Translated Into:       English
Edition:                   First Paperback Edition
Publisher:               Greystone Books
Edition ISBN:         9781778400346
Pages to read:          236
Publication:             2022
1st Edition:              2017
Format:                    Paperback 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall          5