Tree herders and Freckles

When I was a kid, I wanted to be hired to walk around in someone’s timber land all day, just like Freckles.  I grew up with Gene Stratton Porter’s books, and to this day, Girl of the Limberlost remains a comfort book for me.  I think about Limber’s ghost wandering the swamps, vague and misty and calling, every evening at twilight.  I think about old, creaking trees, moss-strewn and beautiful, and the wings of soft, furry moths hidden in grooves of bark.  I think about Ents, and the slowness of time, and the rushing tickle of tree sap in spring and fall.

It seems that the trees will soon begin to manage themselves, or at least be fitted out with the equipment to do so.  MIT is working on sensors that will be powered by the trees themselves, using the difference in charge between a tree’s sap and the soil as the sole energy source, slowly building charge at a tree’s natural pace.  There’s something almost magical about the idea, the soft flow of energy in a tree in the form of sap and, in turn, flowing outward to sensors that help protect those same trees from forest fires by detecting and reporting on them.  Eventually the sensors could be used to collect climate data or monitor ‘remote borders’, just like the old forest-walkers like Freckles did.  I would imagine the sensors and batteries could eventually be used in commercial forests and timber land as well, to track the age, health, and general characteristics of a tree to aid in logging.  Another few steps and the trees will just keel over and split into portable chunks at the appropriate time.

On a side note, I love that this tree technology is considered news by the BBC, but not by US news services, even though the tech is being developed here.  Go us.


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