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How Trees Young and Old Share and Communicate for Survival

Submitted by Christopher Cheung, 22 Sep 2016

We recently shared a review of Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees with you in The Tyee, a new book about tree communication that shows forests act more like communities than we might expect.

In this video, Suzanne Simard, the University of British Columbia forest ecologist who coined the term “wood wide web,” walks us through how trees are able to shuffle carbon and nitrogen through roots and fungi to one another.

“These plants are really not individuals in the sense that Darwin thought they were individuals, competing for survival of the fittest,” Simard says. “In fact, they’re interacting with each other, trying to help each other survive.”

The networks of communication are not unlike the neural networks of the human brain, she says.

These forest relationships are something Simard believes humans need to take into more consideration when it comes to our logging practices. Even dying trees have a large role to play in the ecosystem.

“Dying trees will move resources into living trees, to the young ones before they go,” Simard says. “So it’s like a transfer, a passing of the wand from one generation to the next, if we allow it to happen.”

Walking through a clearing, Simard laments that the dead trees there were cut down so soon.

“We didn’t give them a chance to give back to the community.”

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