April 28, 2018
from UpliftConnect Website
Image: Diàna Markosian
A walk amongst the trees is rejuvenating, nourishing and healing, yet a forest is so much more than an amazing collection of trees. There is a lot going on in the forests that we can't see.
Simard (video at bottom page) says trees have a sophisticated and interconnected social
network existing underground.
that connect trees and allow them to communicate,
and allow the forest to behave as if it's
a single organism."
Trees are much more like us humans that you may think. They are extremely social and depend on each other for their survival.
Communication is vital, and a
massive web of hair-like mushroom roots transmit secret messages
between trees, triggering them to share nutrients and water with
those in need.
She shares how she'd lie down on the forest floor and stare up at the crowns of the giant trees. An accident with her dog who fell into their forest outhouse and had to be dug out, led her to discover the incredible underground root and mycelial network she would later research.
When she returned to the study of trees later in life, she learnt how scientists had just discovered in the laboratory, that one pine seedling root could transmit carbon to another pine seedling root.
and over vast distances.
Her idea that trees could share information underground was controversial and many of her colleagues thought she was crazy. Difficulties in securing research funding led her to conduct her own experiments and so she planted 240 birch, fir and cedar trees in a Canadian forest.
She hypothesized that the birch and firs would be connected in their own underground web, but not the cedar. Undeterred by bears, she covered the seedlings with plastic bags, filling them with various types of carbon gas.
She injected a
radioactive gas into the birch, and then a stable carbon dioxide gas
into the fir.
She discovered birch sent carbon to fir, especially when it was shaded.
Later the opposite
happened, when the birch was leafless in the winter, the fir sent
over more carbon. Science had always believed that trees competed
with each other for carbon, sunlight, water and nutrients.
by chemical and hormonal signals
via a network of mycelium.
These messages determined which trees needed certain nutrients.
They communicated via,
...and then shared
these elements, balancing the entire forest.
there can be hundreds of kilometers
of mycelium under a single foot step."
This network works in a similar way to the internet. She discovered that mother trees nurture the younger trees and that a single mother tree can be connected to hundreds of other trees.
Trees talk, and through these conversations they increase the resilience of the whole community.
It's a magical community
of trees all supporting each other.
She hopes that her research will change the way we practice forestry.
Forests have an
enormous capacity to self-heal.
We are steadily weakening our forests, by clear cutting and planting only one or two species. This is having major environmental impacts. But there is hope.
She says forests have an enormous capacity to self-heal.
As more and more information comes to light about the complex relationships existing between trees, we are better equipped to save our forests and help them thrive.
Scientists like Simard
are helping us change our perspective so that we work in harmony
with nature, something that could dramatically alter the trajectory
of environmental disaster and bring harmonious outcomes for both
humans and trees.
Trees can talk to each other