Hemlock A Forest Giant on the Edge David R. Foster, Anthony D'Amato, Benjamin Baiser, Aaron M. Ellison, David Orwig, Wyatt Oswald, Audrey Barker Plotkin, Jonathan Thompson

Publication date:
29 Apr 2014
Yale University Press
336 pages: 254 x 178 x 19mm
69 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

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An appreciation of the beautiful, iconic, and endangered Eastern Hemlock and what it means to nature and society

The Eastern Hemlock, massive and majestic, has played a unique role in structuring northeastern forest environments, from Nova Scotia to Wisconsin and through the Appalachian Mountains to North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama. A “foundation species” influencing all the species in the ecosystem surrounding it, this iconic North American tree has long inspired poets and artists as well as naturalists and scientists.

Five thousand years ago, the hemlock collapsed as a result of abrupt global climate change.  Now this iconic tree faces extinction once again because of an invasive insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid. Drawing from a century of studies at Harvard University’s Harvard Forest, one of the most well-regarded long-term ecological research programs in North America, the authors explore what hemlock’s modern decline can tell us about the challenges facing nature and society in an era of habitat changes and fragmentation, as well as global change.

David R. Foster, Audrey Barker Plotkin, Anthony D’Amato, Benjamin Baiser, Aaron M. Ellison, David Orwig, Wyatt Oswald, and Jonathan Thompson are scientific collaborators and colleagues at Harvard University’s Harvard Forest.

“For any lover of the eastern forest, the decline of the noble hemlock is a hard story to hear; told here, by a group of the forest’s foremost chroniclers, the story acquires a majesty worthy of its subject.”—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

“[This volume] is a [synthesis] of scientific literature into an enjoyable reading for those not trained in the scientific method and technical writing.”—Katherine Elliott, Center for Forest Watershed Science, USDA Forest Service

“This is a groundbreaking work of science and history, of an iconic tree species and its ecosystem.”—David Mladenoff, University of Wisconsin

“[This book] has the potential to serve as an important, even landmark volume, about the landscape history of New England and North America in general.”—Margaret Lowman, author of Life in the Treetops and It’s a Jungle Up There

“I absolutely loved this book! Hemlock is a fascinating blend of science and the people who conducted that science.”—Alan White, University of Maine

"The hemlock tree warns of globalization of pests and diseases, subverting the future of all forests. This most meticulous ecological study uses archives, archaeology, pollen analysis, and trees themselves."—Oliver Rackham, author of The AshTree

“A beautiful portrait of an evocative forest giant, full of insights into the practice of science, and the lives of trees, people and landscapes in a changing world.”—Peter Crane, author of Ginkgo: The Tree that Time Forgot

“A nuanced and lovely account of the challenges facing the eastern hemlock today, projecting its greatly diminished future in our woods, and reflecting on the rapid alteration of our planet to which we all too often remain blind.”—Peter Raven, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden

“You’ll learn much about hemlocks that will make your time in the woods richer and your knowledge of ecological history deeper . . . This book is not a reiteration of facts and figures, but a well-written portrait of hemlock, its role in New England’s forests, and the lives and character of the foresters and other scientists who have studied it.”—Northern Woodlands

“The authors combine science, history, a strong sense of place, and personal reflection to tell the story in a way that is unlikely to be told for many other species or places.”?Ecology

2015 New England Society Book Awards Finalist in the Specialty Titles category.

“. . . an engrossing read for nonscientists, showing what is special about hemlock woods and why humans have been so attracted to them throughout history.”—Eben Lehman and James G. Lewis, Forest History Today