🌲 From Tree to Shining Tree πŸŒ²

🌲 From Tree to Shining Tree πŸŒ²

One of our favorite podcasts on 

RADIOLAB

 talks about the amazing behavior & network of trees in forests. On this show, a few guests including Suzanne Simard, a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, discuss how normally, trees from different species are competitors. However, Suzanne noticed that in a forest, when a fir tree is cut down, the birch tree next to it dies. So she did some experimenting to find out more about this connection - but ended up discovering than what she had originally set out to find.

Suzanne discovered that trees in a forest have an amazingly complex communication & sharing network that is beyond what we had previously imagined. Not only are the main roots of the trees a network, but so are the feeder roots, and most surprisingly - fungi.

When you look at the roots of the trees in a forest, there are little white threads attached to the roots, smaller than an eyelash; They’re everywhere and some even go on for 7 miles! These are fungus, and they are hollow, like tubes, and they connect across the forest to make an incredibly wide network - a fungi freeway.

So, why is there this fungi freeway? Well, there is a symbiotic relationship between a tree and fungus; the tree has something the fungus needs and the fungus has something the tree needs. A tree turns inorganic carbon into organic carbon, and CO2 into sugar. However, if trees ONLY did this, they wouldn't be able to grow as tall and strong as they do. They need minerals, nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, calcium, copper, etc, that are in the soil. However, trees can only absorb nutrients from the tips of their roots, which wouldn't be enough for them to grow so tall.

That's where the fungus come in! Fungus can draw a lot of water + nutrients from the soil with various techniques. They find rocks, secrete acid, and dissolve them in order to suck up the minerals. They also hunt insects and suck the nutrients from them, or if an animal has died aboveground in the soil, they can even absorb nutrients from that.

Then, the fungus share these nutrients with trees in exchange for some of the sugar that the tree produces in order to build their bodies. The fungus & the tree communicate through chemical signals; the fungus tells the tree to soften their roots so they can enter.

In addition to their amazing & communicative relationship with fungus, trees also have a complex network with other trees. Did you know that trees can also send danger signals through the network to other trees, warning them of pests like insects? When the other trees get the signal, they start producing a chemical that makes them tastes bad in order to prevent the insect from eating them. And amazingly, if a tree is dying, he’ll send his carbon to his neighbors.

This is the amazing intelligence of the forest - 🌲 from Tree to Shining Tree 🌲