“Forest scientists describe the generosity of mast fruiting with the predator-satiation hypothesis. The story seems to go like this: When the trees produce more than the squirrels can eat, some nuts escape predation. Likewise, when the squirrel larders are packed with nuts, the plump pregnant mamas have more babies in each litter and the squirrel population skyrockets. Which means that the hawk mamas have more babies, and fox dens are full too. But when the next fall comes, the happy days are over, because the trees have shut off nut production. There’s little to fill the squirrels’ larders now—they come home empty-handed—so they go out looking, harder and harder, exposing themselves to the increased population of watchful hawks and hungry foxes. The predator-prey ratio is not in their favour, and through starvation and predation the squirrel population plummets and the woods grow quiet without their chattering. You can imagine the trees whispering to each other at this point, ‘There are just a few squirrels left. Wouldn’t this be a good time to make some nuts?’ All across the landscape, out come the pecan flowers poised to become a bumper crop again. Together, the trees survive, and thrive.”
This is from Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (p. 16).
Recorded May 21, 2020
Location: Belchertown, MA