Trees communicate

Published 24-07-2015

Just like all living things, trees also have the ability to communicate.

Dr. Suzanne Simard, from the University of British Columbia, has been studying fungal (mycorrhizal) networks that use trees as communication hubs. Trees located near the hubs or ‘mother trees’ benefit from their care and support, in the same way that a family takes care of its own.

The fungal network can be used by like and unlike tree species. Simard studied the sharing of resources via the network between two different tree types. Up to 300 trees can be connected in one area and benefit from the power of the family network.

Sticking together has its benefits. Messages (chemical-based) flowing between trees within a network can warn of pests and diseases, and trigger appropriate action among the whole family.

Professor Hans Lambers of the University of Western Australia admits that science has known about the communication of trees for at least 20 years. By this he means the giving off of chemical signals above ground. These are the signals that animals react to. Humans can too when clear enough in mind to receive and perceive (we are a part of nature after all).

Lambers believes that Simard’s research shows great potential, as it is a largely underresearched area. He also believes that Australian trees rely heavily on the ‘family’ and fungal network, as soil nutrients are not as high down under as they are in North America.

Meanwhile Simard recognises the importance of leaving old giants or ‘mothers’ where they are, instead of logging them. The network hubs are the key to fighting disease and invasive exotic species, as well as recovering from fire or forestry work.

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