Trees Talk to Each Other and Recognize Their Offspring
Photo credit: Edwin Van Buuringen/via Flickr
This is a portion of a summary article of a scholarly paper that appeared in the Treehugger aggregator site, January 11, 2021, by Derek Markham. The full article appears in the non-profit TORC site.
The Lorax might have spoken for the trees, but it turns out that trees can speak for themselves. At least to other trees, that is.
While it's not news that a variety of communication happens between non-human elements of the natural world, the idea of mycelia (the main body of fungi, as opposed to the more well-known fruiting bodies - mushrooms) acting as a sort of old-school planetary internet is still a fairly recent one, and may serve as a spore of a new breed of forestry, ecology, land management.
Tree's Natural Internet
Paul Stamets famously posited that "mycelia are Earth's natural Internet," and a variety of research has borne out that concept.1 However, most of us tend to ignore the micro in favor of the macro. And when it comes to conservation and natural resources, our systems may be falling prey to the lure of reductionist thinking, with a tree being considered merely a commodity in the forest, which can be replaced simply by planting another tree.
In fact, many reforestation efforts are considered successful when a large number of trees are replanted in areas where clearcutting has rendered large tracts of land treeless, even if those replanted trees are essentially turning a once diverse forest into a monocropped 'farm' of trees. At the TEDSummit 2016, forest ecologist Suzanne Simard seemed to lay the idea to rest that a forest is merely a collection of trees that can be thought of as fully independent entities, standing alone even while surrounded by other trees and vegetation. Says Simard, who has put in about three decades of research work into Canada's forests, "A forest is much more than what you see."
The rest of the article is at Treehugger. The original peer-review journal article is:
Babikova, Zdenka et al. "Underground Signals Carried Through Common Mycelial Networks Warn Neighbouring Plants Of Aphid Attack." Ecology Letters, vol. 16, no. 7, 2013, pp. 835-843., doi:10.1111/ele.12115
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