BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 441

BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 441

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Review: The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

That so many copies of Peter Wohlleben’s book The Hidden Life of Trees have been sold is no surprise. Life in the urban jungle can be overwhelming, and many of us long to escape by seeking more natural environments.We hope an encounter with nature might make us feel more ‘alive’. Would we use this same term to describe nature itself, though? Forests and the trees that form them are commonly perceived as objects lacking awareness, like rocks or stones. But here, Wohlleben would beg to differ. From his observations, he has concluded that they are conscious in a way we do not fully understand.

In recent decades, a number of writers have investigated our planet’s flora. The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey and What a Plant Knows by Daniel Chamovitz, for example, have done much to reformulate our views about the green world. Central to many of these books is a serious message about sustainability, and The Hidden Life of Trees is no exception.What sets it apart is its approach to description: at the start Wohlleben announces that ‘When you know that trees have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you can no longer just chop them down.’ Not everyone will be comfortable with this kind of anthropomorphism.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Nevertheless, Wohlleben’s experience of working in a beech forest in the Eitel mountains of Germany may put him in a better position than many to write a book about trees.In the introduction, he explains that he started out as a state-employed forester, taking care of trees purely for industrial reasons. The straighter they were, the more high-quality logs could be sawn. But after a while he began to appreciate trees for more than just their commercial worth. He gives some of the credit for this realisation to the tourists that would come to the forest, who were more enchanted by bent, crooked trees, which did not conform to the straight ideal.

An anecdote that stands out is Wohlleben’s encounter with ‘the gnarled remains of an enormous tree stump’ in the Eitel forest. More than anything else, it was this encounter that prompted him to look further into the hidden behaviour of trees. To his surprise, after scraping at the outside layer of bark covering the stump, he discovered a green layer underneath. This was chlorophyll, the pigment normally produced by living trees. Wohlleben realised that the only way the stump could still be alive was if the surrounding beeches were providing it with a sugar solution through their own roots.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Wohlleben is not the first person to claim that trees are cooperative. In the 1990s, Dr Suzanne Simard realised that fir and birch trees were supplying each other with carbon. Simard’s findings made complete sense to Wohlleben, who believes that this kind of nutrient exchange between neighbours is typical of a healthy forest. Wohlleben also had the opportunity to deepen his understanding of tree biology when researchers from Aachen University set up investigative programmes in his beech forest.

Discussions with them reinforced his beliefs about the way trees thrived, and Wohlleben eventually found himself strongly opposed to some traditional forestry practices. He finally succeeded in persuading local villagers that the forest should be allowed to return to a natural state: this involved banning the use of machinery for logging, and giving up on pesticides for a start.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Since then, Wohlleben has been noting how his beech forest has developed, and his observations formed the foundation for the book. Humour and a straightforward narrative make it instantly appealing to readers without a science background – elements that have successfully been translated into over a dozen languages. Those that do have scientific training, however, will be more demanding. Critics of Wohlleben point out that proper academic studies need to be done to prove all his claims are factually accurate.

This seems a fair point. What the book will certainly do is transform nature lovers’ experiences of a forest walk. Once you know what is happening below ground, you can’t help but marvel at the complex life of trees. Will it transform the way we produce timber for the manufacturing industry? As large corporations tend to focus on immediate profits, they are hardly likely to adopt the longer-term practices that Wohlleben recommends.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

One of these is allowing trees to grow nearer to each other. This is the opposite of what happens in many state-owned forests, where foresters deliberately space out trees so they can get more sunlight and grow faster. But Wohlleben claims this spacing prevents vital root interaction, and so lowers resistance to drought. Older, established trees, he explains, draw up moisture through their deep roots and provide this to juvenile trees growing below them. Without this assistance, they could die. The relationship between fungi and trees is also given attention. For instance, when pines require more nitrogen, the fungi growing at their base release a poison into the soil.

This poison kills many minute organisms, which release nitrogen as they die, and this is absorbed by the trees’ roots. In return, the fungi receive photosynthesised sugar from the pines. Then Wohlleben explores the way trees employ scent, giving the example of acacia trees in sub-Saharan Africa. When giraffes begin feeding on an acacia’s leaves, the tree emits ethylene gas as a warning to neighbouring acacias. These then pump tannins into their leaves – substances toxic to giraffes.

More controversial is Wohlleben’s suggestion that trees feel pain. Although scientific research has now established that if branches are broken off or the trunk is hit with an axe, a tree will emit electrical signals from the site of the wound, the application of the concept of ‘pain’ might be an instance where readers are unconvinced.

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IELTS Academic Reading Test

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.

27. What is the reviewer emphasising in the phrase ‘Wohlleben would beg to differ’?

A. the fact that trees might not live as passively as we thing

B. the idea that a forest trip might increase people’s vitality

C. the way that a forest is the key feature of many landscapes

D. the belief that trees exist only for the benefit of humans

28. According to the reviewer, a unique feature of The Hidden Life of Trees is

A. its suggestion that ordinary people can act to protect forests.

B. its viewpoint that only certain kinds of tree are worth preserving.

C. its tendency to refer to trees as if they had human qualities.

D. its simplistic rather than academic approach to writing.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

29. What are we told about Peter Wohlleben’s time as a state-employed forester?

A. He hoped he could make a good living from cutting down trees.

B. He changed his mind about the way in which trees were valuable.

C. He rejected the ideas that visitors to the beach forest put forward.

D. He introduced new techniques for improving the growth of trees.

30. The reviewer mentions the trees stump anecdote in order to

A. question traditional thinking about the way trees grow.

B. explain the motivation behind Wohlleben’s area of research

C. highlight Wohlleben’s lack of formal scientific training.

D. suggest how personal stories have brought a dull topic to life.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in Reading Passage 3?

In boxes 31-36 on your answer sheet, write

YES – If the statement agrees with the claims of the writer

NO – If the statement contradicts the claims of the writer

NOT GIVEN – If it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

31. Wohlleben was sceptical about the results of Dr Suzanne Simard’s research.

32. Wohlleben’s theories about trees were confirmed after talking to Aachen University scientists.

33. It was a good decision to get rid of machinery and pesticides from the beech forest.

34. The translators of The Hidden Life of Trees should be given more recognition for their contribution.

35. Some of Wohlleben’s ideas about trees must be investigated further before they can be accepted as true.

36. The Hidden Life of Trees is likely to affect how forests are managed by the manufacturing industry.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Complete the summary using the list of words, A-G, below. Write the correct letter, A-G, in boxes 37-40 on your answer sheet.

37. The distance between trees in state-owned forests

38. The fungi growing at the base of trees

39. The scent sometimes given off by trees

40. The electrical signals sent out by trees

IELTS Academic Reading Test

A. may prevent harm occurring to the same tree species.

B. can be the result of different forms of damage.

C. might help the spread of trees in a new location.

D. could be a sign that trees have reached maturity.

E. may affect how vulnerable young trees are during dry periods.

F. can play a part in providing essential nutrients.

G. might encourage disease in trees growing nearby.

IELTS Academic Reading Test


BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 441

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IELTS Academic Reading Test

27. A

28. C

29. B

30. B

31. NO

32. YES



35. YES

36. NO

37. E

38. F

39. A

40. B

IELTS Academic Reading Test

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