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Mycorrhizae: A closer look at how trees “talk” with each other underground

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Take a virtual trip to the Douglas fir forests of Canada to see how trees “talk” to each other. Their secret communications are made possible by forming underground symbiotic relationships with fungi through thread-like root structures called mycelium. This interdependence is called mycorrhiza. Via Wikipedia:

“A mycorrhiza is a symbiotic association between a green plant and a fungus. The plant makes organic molecules such as sugars by photosynthesis and supplies them to the fungus, while the fungus supplies the plant with water and mineral nutrients, such as phosphorus, taken from the soil…”

trading resources

“Relatively few of the mycorrhizal relationships between plant species and fungi have been examined to date, but 95% of the plant families investigated are predominantly mycorrhizal either in the sense that most of their species associate beneficially with mycorrhizae, or are absolutely dependent on mycorrhizae.”

mycorrhizae - underground connections
In addition to trading resources like sugar, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), Fungi can also transmit stress signals. It’s all explained in the National Geographic video above. From the narration:

“To get a better picture of these forest relationships, a team of researchers used DNA analysis to map a fungal network in a patch of Canadian forest. Remarkably, they found that one tree was connected to 47 other trees. Their models also showed that when hub trees were removed, it would cause more connections to be lost than if trees were simply removed randomly.

“Studying these kinds of underground exchanges will play a vital role in creating stronger, more resilient forests for the future.”

hub tree connections
This process has also been called The Wood Wide Web. Watch that video next.

Then watch these related videos on TKSST:
• How Do Trees Transport Water from Roots to Leaves?
• Travel deep inside a redwood tree leaf
• How Douglas Fir Trees Shaped The Northwest
• Growing 500 edible plants in a forest
• What is the Biggest Organism on Earth?

Bonus: Mycelium packaging, a biodegradable alternative to styrofoam.

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