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Who says trees can’t talk? Trees communicate with each other on the “Wood Wide Web”

Who says trees can’t talk? Trees communicate with each other on the “Wood Wide Web”
Source: Unsplash/Thewonderalice

Discover how trees “talk” to each other by forming underground symbiotic relationships with fungi to relay stress signals and share resources with one another.

How trees secretly talk to each other

When you walk through the forest, do you ever think about what is happening beneath your feet? Trees communicate their needs and send each other nutrients via a network of latticed fungi called mycelium, buried in the soil. It’s been dubbed the “wood wide web”, Earth’s natural internet. With the discovery of this wood wide web, Ecologist Suzanne Simard revolutionised the way we think about plants and fungi.

These threads act as a kind of underground internet, now referred to as the “wood wide web” linking the roots of different plants and different species.
While mushrooms are the most familiar (and obvious) part of a fungus, most of their bodies are made up of mycelium and buried out of sight). These threads act as a kind of underground internet, now referred to as the “wood wide web” linking the roots of different plants and different species. Source: Unsplash/Rovshan Allahverdiyev

What is the wood wide web?

This connection was first discovered by Suzanne Simard from the Mother Tree Project in her 1997 Ph.D. thesis. Trees release carbohydrates into the ground as they go through photosynthesis, providing the structure below energy. In return, the underground microorganisms connect each plant so that supplements are evenly distributed throughout the area. This discovery coined the ‘wood wide web’, provides key data about all life on our planet.

All trees all over the world form a symbiotic association with below-ground fungi. The fungi provide the trees with nutrients. In return they receive sugars. But this connection runs far deeper than scientists first thought…

With the discovery of the woodwide web, Ecologist Suzanne Simard revolutionised the way we think about plants and fungi. All trees all over the world form a symbiotic association with below-ground fungi. The fungi provide the trees with nutrients. In return they receive sugars. But this connection runs far deeper than scientists first thought… Source: Lex vB at Dutch Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

All trees all over the world form a symbiotic association with below-ground fungi

These are fungi that are beneficial to the plants and explore the soil. The fungi send mycelium, a mass of thin threads, through the soil. The mycelium picks up nutrients and water, brings them back to the plant, and exchanges the nutrients and water for a sugar or other substance made by photosynthesis from the plant.

It’s this network that connects one tree root system to another tree root system, so that nutrients and water can exchange between them.

The word “mycorrhiza” describes the mutually-beneficial relationships that plants have in which the fungi colonise the roots of plants. The mycorrhizae connect plants that may be widely separated.

Mother trees use this fungal network to supply their seedlings with sugars. Trees that are dying give their resources back into the network so they might be used by healthy trees. They can also send out a warning if there is an environmental change to warn their neighbours to raise their defences.

Trees can also share resources with each other . Mother trees use this fungal network to supply their seedlings with sugars. Trees that are dying give their resources back into the network so they might be used by healthy trees. They can also send out a warning if there is an environmental change to warn their neighbours to raise their defences. Source: Unsplash/Frank Dohl

Life Terra seeks to bring people together to plant 500 million trees in 5 years, harnessing and monitoring nature’s own carbon capture mechanism and enabling citizens to take urgent action against the climate crisis. Life Terra is one of Europe’s largest climate action initiatives. It brings together 15 experienced organisations from 8 countries and is led by the newly established Life Terra foundation. This project was awarded €7 mln support by the Life Programme, which the consortium will use as seed money to put this initiative on the map. Source: Facebook/LifeTerra
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500 MILLION TREES BY 2025 — LET’S PLANT TOGETHER WITH LIFE TERRA!

Life Terra is a foundation with a mission to enable people to take impactful climate action now. Life Terra is Europe’s initiative to lead the fight against climate change, prepare future generations, drive greener policies across the board and generate investment and growth in green jobs. We facilitate tree planting, educate future generations, and develop tree monitoring technology. Plant trees, become a volunteer, trial our education course, organise a restoration project, offer land, donate a tree or compensate your carbon. Let’s plant together!