cover image T​​he Treeline: The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth

T​​he Treeline: The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth

Ben Rawlence. St. Martin’s, $29.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-27023-8

Rawlence (City of Thorns), founder of Black Mountains College, in Wales, explores the boreal forests along Earth’s shifting treeline in this eloquent account. Because of climate change, trees are migrating north, though “they shouldn’t be,” Rawlence writes, and to find out more about why, he travels across Canada, Siberia, Norway, Greenland, and Alaska to speak with ecologists and naturalists. He visits Sami reindeer herders in Norway who want the government to stop birch trees from encroaching on the tundra, because they disturb the lichen that reindeer feed on; treks over sea ice on Russia’s Taimyr Peninsula to meet with Nganasan families who call a “cryolithic larch forest” home; and describes in exquisite detail some of the world’s hardiest trees—Alaska’s spruce, Canada’s balsam poplar, Siberia’s larch, Norway’s downy birch, and Greenland’s mountain ash, which “disconnected from other populations... kept its own time, evolving to suit its new habitat.” Rawlence’s research leads him to conclude that change is inevitable, and every person—and every tree—must adapt to survive. His awe at the beauty and power of trees is moving: “Ancient trees are a source of wonder.” he writes. Nature lovers and travelers alike will find this a lovely paean to a rapidly changing landscape. (Feb.)