Underground fungal networks may be critical in helping forests deal with climate change. These biological webs ensure that forest carbon stocks remain intact, conserve nutrients for future tree migrations and safeguard species diversity. ©Eric Rock

I admit I may be what some would consider a little too woo-woo, “out there” when it comes to trees. I’ve always had a special affinity for them; I’ve even written whole books about them. On this blog, I’ve presented to you reports on plant sentience and the fact that trees talk by releasing chemicals into the air. There have been a lot of doubters among you—which is only healthy, necessary and right for ensuring that we pass on true, scientific findings. But I’m happy to say that there is now even more evidence that trees communicate with each other—and this time, it’s via fungi.

Fungal mycelia connect the roots of trees in a forest. ©From the video “‪Do Trees Communicate?,” Dan McKinney‬‬, Black Forrest Productions, 2011‬

Suzanne W. Simard, a professor in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia, is an expert in plant-to-plant and plant-to-soil microbial interactions. Recently, her studies have shown that all trees in a forest ecosystem are interconnected, with the largest, oldest, “mother trees” serving as hubs.

Working in the Douglas fir forests of interior British Columbia, Professor Simard has demonstrated that trees communicate by way of an “Internet” made of fungi. Networks of fungal mycelia (masses of branching, thread-like filaments) connect the roots of trees in a mutually beneficial relationship: trees supply the fungi with food in the form of carbohydrates. In return, the fungi help the trees suck up water and nutrients the mycelia gather from the soil. This bolsters the trees’ resilience against disturbance or stress. If the fungal links are not conserved—or the mother trees are removed—a whole network could unravel and the regenerative capacity of the forest would be compromised.

If given a chance, a dying tree will pass on what it can to future generations. ©Henry H. Holdsworth

Watch the video below. It depicts how most of the plants you can see in a forest are connected below ground—not directly through their roots but via their mycelial connections. I particularly like Dr. Simard’s thought at the end: instead of cutting down dying trees in a forest and immediately hauling the wood away, we should let them stand for a while, giving them time to pass on what they can to the next generation.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, in the end, isn’t that what we all want to do?

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,