image: @ courtesy of Pongpawan Sethanant / shutterstock.com
TCHI Magazine #4: The real branching out
We all use the World Wide Web to branch out. To gain knowledge, share information, connect to others, donate to people in need and learn what we need to do in case of an impending emergency. The internet has changed the way we think of ourselves, our communities and connectivity. And it seems pretty impressive.
However, the World Wide Web fades in comparison to something known as the Wood Wide Web:the intricate, massively expansive underground network that connects trees.
The Wood Wide Web is a mycorrhizal network: a network of fungi connected to the roots of trees which web endlessly to other trees. It transfers water, carbon, nitrogen and other nutrients and minerals. It’s a way for trees to communicate across great distances. They sense a personal space and share knowledge and information, for example; when a tree is experiencing drought or the attack of a pest, other trees respond. In the case of drought, trees who do have access to water will send it to the tree without. In case of a pest, the other trees will send chemicals to their leaves which will make them less tasty for the pests to eat.
Higher trees who are able to photosynthesise more will feed sugars into the network which are shuttled to the roots of seedlings who stand in their shadows and cannot photosynthesise enough themselves.
But our friendly giants are as caring as they are cunning. Beech and Oak trees will communicate about lean and fat years. Together, they decide on a couple of lean years, starving the swine and deer that eat their nuts. Once the lean years have resulted in a smaller population of these animals, they will have fat years in which they’ll produce and drop so many nuts that the chances of some of them surviving and taking root are much higher.
“A sense of personal space…”
On top of all this, trees also display a sense of personal space. Crown shyness is a phenomenon in some tree species where the uppermost branches in a canopy avoid touching each other. If you look up, you’ll see the spaces between crowns snaking like rivers.
The knowledge about the Wood Wide Web is only just unfolding. But we’re hopeful that, as knowledge grows, a love for trees will take root in many.