According to scientists, trees seem to ‘talk’ to each other underground by passing information and resources through a network of mycorrhizal fungi-a a mat of long, thin filaments that connect around 90 percent of land plants.
Scientists refer to the fungi as the ‘wood wide web’ and it’s characterized by adult trees sharing their sugars with younger trees and ill trees can send their resources into the network for other trees to use.
They also seem to communicate with each other about potential threats like insects.
How Does the Wood Wide Web Function?
According to a video by 2D animator and illustrator Jules Bartl, the connection between these fungi and the plants is an ancient one, around 450 million years old, and based largely on mutualism-a symbiosis in which both sides benefit.
For example, the fungi take some of the sugar rich in carbon which is produced during photosynthesis from the trees.
Moreover, the plants get nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus that the fungi got from the soil through enzymes which trees don’t have.
Is the Forest a Single Super Organism?
The Wood Wide Web’s existence has also raised major questions like where species start and finish, if a forest is a single super organism, and about the extent of sharing among plants.
Suzanne Simard is an ecologist who discovered 20 years ago that trees are able to communicate their needs and send nutrients to each other through the underground network.
Simard believes trees ‘talk to each other’ using the fungi network. Her research also shows that trees talk by using the fungal filigree.
Most fungal bodies have mycelium, a filament which acts like some ‘underground internet’ or the ‘wooden web’.
This connection may be of aid for the neighbors because of the nutrient and information sharing. Fungal networks are also helpful in strengthening the immunity of host plants.
The forest trees are connected on several grounds and large ones can help the smaller ones through the ‘web’. Simard explains that without this network, a lot of seedlings won’t be able to survive.
Before heading out, don’t forget to check out this informative video below on how trees communicate underground: