Do trees communicate? Networks, networks…

UBC Professor Suzanne Simard on Mother Trees.

I was unfamiliar with how mycorrhizal networks connect the roots of trees, facilitating the sharing of resources. Dr. Suzanne Simard writes:

Graduate student Kevin Beiler has uncovered the extent and architecture of this network through the use of new molecular tools that can distinguish the DNA of one fungal individual from another, or of one tree’s roots from another. He has found that all trees in dry interior Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) forests are interconnected, with the largest, oldest trees serving as hubs, much like the hub of a spoked wheel, where younger trees establish within the mycorrhizal network of the old trees. Through careful experimentation, recent graduate Francois Teste determined that survival of these establishing trees was greatly enhanced when they were linked into the network of the old trees.Through the use of stable isotope tracers, he and Amanda Schoonmaker, a recent undergraduate student in Forestry, found that increased survival was associated with belowground transfer of carbon, nitrogen and water from the old trees. This research provides strong evidence that maintaining forest resilience is dependent on conserving mycorrhizal links, and that removal of hub trees could unravel the network and compromise regenerative capacity of the forests.

Love this representation by Beiler of one of these networks:

Serendipity alert: I just finished reading John Vaillant’s The Golden Spruce, a remarkable story combining bizarre psychology, ecology and history. Dr. Simard figures in the book briefly (as she worked with Grant Hadwin when she was a student). There is a propagated genetic copy of the destroyed spruce at UBC’s Botanical Garden. Daniel Mosquin has a photo and write-up on the wonderful blog that he has maintained for the Botanical Garden for years now.

159 comments

  1. Pingback: Networking isn’t just for | SALT Community Blog
  2. roy t williams · July 12, 2011

    Great, so they are also into hypo-media? (sorry, couldnt resist).

    Speaking of which, do you have any examples of narrative network analysis (i.e. networks of narrative ‘bits’), and how they make sense in a network of associations. I am working on ‘nested narratives’, and am keen to try out some ideas in this area.

    • Brian · July 12, 2011

      Roy – need I demand an apology for “nested narratives” as well?

      I don’t think I can be of much assistance, though that sounds like a very cool direction… I’ll be reading and clicking.

      • Pat · July 12, 2011

        Hello Brian,

        Do you know by any chance whether any researchers specifically have been looking into the parallels between neural networks and mycorrhizal networks? I’d be interested in doing research in that field myself… or at least look into it more deeply.

        Best,

        Pat

        • KB · July 12, 2011

          Pat,
          there are many studies that discuss commonalities in the network architectures of complex systems, but as far as I know none comparing mycorrhizal and neural networks per se. The work of Albert-László Barabási is a good place to start.

          Brian, thanks for sharing this!

          • Pat · July 12, 2011

            KB,
            thanks for your comment! Apparently Prof. Simard herself might publish a new article on complex systems herself soon…

            Very off topic: wouldn’t it be possible to construct an algorithm to compare the proportions of neurons and trees (and the number of nodes where each one branches off into dendrites/branches)? I often think both of them (trees and neurons) look so similar that it can’t be coincidental… maybe a stupid idea but hey… just curious what you’re thinking about this.

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  4. Nancy Stuewe (@nmstuewe) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… | Abject http://ht.ly/5Fz2f

  5. Lee Dugatkin (@LeeDugatkin) · July 12, 2011

    Networking…in trees? http://t.co/MdTq0yg thanks to: @andrew_zolli

  6. Boley Law Library (@lawlib) · July 12, 2011

    Trees and Networks: Going Deep to Communicate http://t.co/AX3ZYOc

  7. Jim · July 12, 2011

    I think I watched a documentary about this, and there are Hobbits that often ride atop these trees as well, right?

    • Brian · July 12, 2011

      Jim… I am one with the great tree, Luna. Laugh if you will, and I know you will… and the industrial world laughs with you… but know that the remnants and ghostly traces of the consumed forest envelop us all in its own all-consuming embrace.

      Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

      • Jim · July 12, 2011

        I left an innocent comment, and now I am scared. What have I done?! I angered Luna the tree god.

  8. Bill Belsey (@Inukshuk) · July 12, 2011

    What we can learn about networking from trees, http://bit.ly/q7B8Y6

  9. Pingback: Do trees communicate? « Critical Transitions
  10. tushar rao (@imbenzene) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… | Abject http://ow.ly/5GmlP

  11. tushar (@imbenzene1) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… | Abject http://ow.ly/5GmlU

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  13. Ellen Melsen (@EllenMelsen) · July 12, 2011

    Must see/read RT @andrew_zolli: The Social Life of Trees … amazing root networks under forest floor http://t.co/6X5GSoy (via @ValdisKrebs)

  14. Lisa Kimball (@lisakimball) · July 12, 2011

    how mycorrhizal networks connect the roots of trees, facilitating the sharing of resources http://bit.ly/q7B8Y6

  15. Betsey Miller (@HowGoesPaul) · July 12, 2011

    awesome! “@TylerGreenDC:…In a forest, trees don’t stand alone. They’re networked to other trees. http://t.co/kauxPrx”

  16. Markus Trapp (@textundblog) · July 12, 2011

    Was geht da ab zwischen Bäumen? ;) Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://abject.ca/do-trees-communicate/

  17. Pingback: Mycorrhizal networks and learning | iterating toward openness
  18. Pingback: Smart Mobs » Blog Archive » Do trees form smart mobs?
  19. Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://j.mp/nQhTtV

  20. In support of Stamets’ assertion that mycorrhiza is the "original Internet": http://t.co/zBAWlYz

  21. Paloma Neumann (@PLmita) · July 12, 2011

    Supervivencia de árboles jóvenes y resiliencia de bosques depende de la permanencia de los árboles adultos y micorrizas http://ow.ly/5Lcz4

  22. Scott Knowles (@sknowles) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Networks, networks…http://bit.ly/oRu2LE

  23. Mindshare LA (@MindshareLA) · July 12, 2011

    Not just for The Lord of the Rings: Do trees communicate? http://j.mp/paTO8T #fb

  24. Pingback: Trees communicate using mycorrhizal network | Golden Swamp
  25. 樹木はネットワークによって助け合っている?コミュニケーションする木たち。http://t.co/vENydi5

  26. Pingback: » The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly) Yule Heibel's Post Studio © 2003-2010
  27. Neus Lorenzo (@NewsNeus) · July 12, 2011

    Read it and enjoy! I did! :-) http://abject.ca/do-trees-communicate/ @toughLoveforx

  28. @NewsNeus you find goood stuff.. http://t.co/4wPEDVI :-) Hey @ddrrnt take a look at the picture… nemiTubes all around..

  29. Brandon Elkins · July 12, 2011

    This is great research that, oddly enough, is relevant to a video game design I’ve been working on for years.

  30. rondiver (@rondiver) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Network and resource sharing among Douglas Fir. http://su.pr/643fLZ

  31. Here’s a new take on networking…….do trees communicate for their own survival? http://fb.me/18dDKvKvh

  32. oldParasiteSingle · July 12, 2011

    Hey, everything she said could have come from the sci-fi movie “Avatar.” 500-year-old Mother trees thinking with their heritage, until the nasty humans obliterate that heritage by clearcutting & environmental degradation. Cool.

  33. hari sreenivasan (@hari) · July 12, 2011

    Do #trees communicate? http://bit.ly/r86LAF #green

  34. Jennifer Dorroh (@jendorroh) · July 12, 2011

    Watch this, and the forest will seem different on your next hike. RT @webbmedia RT @hari: Do #trees communicate? http://t.co/BxGyNku #green

  35. Eli Gothill (@webisteme) · July 12, 2011

    Douglas fir trees are networked via “mycorrhizal networks.” http://t.co/1tXjZFL (thanks @triciawang) cc. @openworld – biosemiotics, Y/N?

  36. “Do trees communicate? Networks, networks…” on mycorrhizal networks in forests: http://bit.ly/qQ0G9c #awesome

  37. Tom Adamski (@Tom_Adamski) · July 12, 2011

    Wisdom in the trees: RT @wired: Douglas fir trees network through their root systems, share resources: http://bit.ly/q7B8Y6

  38. Vivian Lund (@vivlund) · July 12, 2011

    Cool indeed! RT @wired: Super cool: Douglas fir trees network through their root systems, share resources. http://bit.ly/q7B8Y6

  39. Thanks to following @golan,l learned that trees communicate via fungus, using the oldest in the ‘social’ network as hubs http://t.co/v8KDcBj

  40. Teodor Mitew (@tedmitew) · July 12, 2011

    It turns out trees form communication networks, just like in Avatar. The oldest serve as hubs http://t.co/igEeeOA #digc202 [via@bruces]

  41. “@wired: Super cool: Douglas fir trees network through their root systems, share resources.http://t.co/aCY2oEL” @DanielleM712 hmmmmm

  42. Pingback: Old Trees Help Young Trees Grow « thinktosurvive
  43. guidoz (@guidoz) · July 12, 2011

    MESHnetwork RT @silvertje: RT @golan: It turns out the trees are all connected, The oldest serve as hubs http://t.co/igEeeOA /RT @160B

  44. Bradley Shende (@b_radley) · July 12, 2011

    Trees communicate in similar fashion to computer networks, with old trees serving as hubs: http://ow.ly/5SKRG

  45. Trees communicate in similar fashion to computer networks, with old trees serving as hubs: http://ow.ly/5SKWf

  46. Social Networking for trees. Douglas fir trees network through their root systems, share resources.http://bit.ly/q7B8Y6 (via @Chrysaora)

  47. Per Falk (@perfal) · July 12, 2011

    Hur träd och svampar nätverkar via symbios http://t.co/dJ0U7iF

  48. Phishy Tots (@phishphude) · July 12, 2011

    Want your mind to be blown?? “@wired: Super cool: Douglas fir trees network through their root systems, share resources.http://t.co/Paa2bHQ

  49. Phil Calçado (@pcalcado) · July 12, 2011

    "forest resilience depends on links and removal of hub trees compromise regenerative capacity of the forests." http://tinyurl.com/6yy29vn

  50. Networks!“@golan: It turns out the trees are all connected, er, just like in Avatar. The oldest serve as hubs http://t.co/i8w8QHM /RT @160B”

  51. Fazal Khan (@fazalkhan) · July 12, 2011

    @joerogan looks like James Cameron & movie Avatar is closer to real life then we might thought! http://bit.ly/oBwqGC

  52. Jon Stabell Sauge (@jonss) · July 12, 2011

    Påvist organisk nettverk hos furutrær.
    “Douglas fir trees #network through their #root systems, share resources.http://t.co/f6SXJmw (@Wired)

  53. Maria Mendez (@mariame) · July 12, 2011

    It turns out the trees are all connected. Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://bit.ly/q7B8Y6 (via @golan)

  54. Carin Meier (@carinmeier) · July 12, 2011

    #GOT Greenseeing :) RT @160B Douglas-fir #network: all trees r interconnected with the oldest, serving as hubs http://bit.ly/q7B8Y6 /@wired

  55. Phoebe Isaacs (@elusivewit) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://t.co/PQsyAgB (via @summify from @Chrysaora, and @kn0thing)

  56. Ryan A. Wolper (@ryanwolper) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://t.co/M3qCKIh

  57. Bonnie Daley · July 12, 2011

    I’m not surprised since trees and humans are fairly close on the tree of life. In fact, they are not so distant cousins.

  58. Super cool: Douglas fir trees network through their root systems, share resources.http://bit.ly/q7B8Y6 (via @Chrysaora)
    #communication

  59. Nature’s serendipity. If trees can work together and #collaborate, so can we. ‘Do trees communicate? Networks, network..’ http://ow.ly/5Txc6

  60. Pingback: Mycorrhizal networks diagram by Kevin Beiler (via Golan Levin) / what consumes me, bud caddell
  61. David · July 12, 2011

    And you get paid for this? is this another Goverment program that needs to be removed. First off, who cares and secondly, like its going to change the world in which we live, you stayed in the woods to long! Get a life!!

  62. "Of course trees communicate!" says Fleur. http://fb.me/19Y2WvFTa

  63. “Of course trees communicate!” says Fleur. http://fb.me/19Y2WvFTa

  64. A new, yet old, take on networks > http://bit.ly/nnWIIl

  65. Pingback: Lighthouses, Talking Trees « Sunflowervillager's Blog
  66. Hayley Johns (@HayleyYoga) · July 12, 2011

    Talking trees http://bit.ly/qY2U6w

  67. Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://abject.ca/do-trees-communicate/

  68. Jennifer Lee (@jliyi) · July 12, 2011

    All trees are interconnected, with the largest, oldest trees serving as hubs. http://t.co/jtlIDmI /via @ashalynd @golan @160B

  69. Steve: Shamy (@SteveShamy) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://t.co/Z8ooxhw

  70. JD King (@JD_KING) · July 12, 2011

    To follow up what @JennzKing was talking about – http://t.co/l47S5Ce

  71. Cornelius Engelbrecht · July 12, 2011

    Reminds me of the South African tree called the Mopanie that communicates with other Mopanie trees to make tannin as soon as the Kudu’s start eating the leaves of a tree…

  72. Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://t.co/p4XZQBc #sna #networking

  73. Kind of changes how you think about them: Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://j.mp/ouAV2O

  74. Javier Moreno (@bluelephant) · July 12, 2011

    Redes de comunicación entre árboles: http://t.co/ZsmJNpN (Vía @S33light)

  75. Walter Lapchynski (@wxl) · July 12, 2011

    networking increases surivival (at least for Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) http://v.gd/jtHFEu /via @wirednews #science #biology #fb

  76. Trees network to enlarge the group… http://abject.ca/do-trees-communicate/

  77. HN Firehose (@hnfirehose) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Networks, networks: http://t.co/U9iXABh

  78. Ricky Bacon (@ryoshu) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://j.mp/q7B8Y6 #graphs

  79. LJ (@jinnli) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Networks, networks http://j.mp/rll0af

  80. Trees form networks with their roots – http://j.mp/q7B8Y6 #avatar

  81. Robert Collins jr (@RCXLV) · July 12, 2011

    Yes they call me to say hi from time to time RT @realscottmcleod: Do trees communicate? http://t.co/juLYXga

  82. Asa Dotzler (@asadotzler) · July 12, 2011

    Trees share through their root/microbe systems http://t.co/cPYGZ1s and through pheromone releases http://t.co/ANOlYRZ Pretty cool!

  83. Phil · July 12, 2011

    I recommend Dr. Simard remove or otherwise cease using metaphors such as “Mother trees” — it makes it too easy to dismiss this research as some lovey-dovey hippy-dippy New Ager bullshit. Don’t make it easy to dismiss with sloppy language. It might make it easier to connect with a particular audience, but it hurts in the long run. It feminizes the forest, feminizes nature, and that just makes the forest destroyers feel more ‘manly’. It creates/perpetuates the male/female, creative/destructive binary that does not accurately depict how the forest system works or human’s role in the world.

  84. j · July 12, 2011

    Thiew sounds like one othe scenes from Avatar when they are explaining the network thats in place in the forrest.

    Interesting read.

  85. http://t.co/xQrzUyF Earth is a giant brain. Which makes you wonder why people are so stupid.

  86. Ed Millard (@edmillard) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://t.co/NpZ23qI

  87. I knew it… Trees DO communicate. http://t.co/g5WfGGY

  88. Lukas · July 12, 2011

    Come on, filter out the ping-backs – it’s impossible to have a decent conversation in the the notes.

  89. Rob Felix (@rob_fe) · July 12, 2011

    This is nuts, new discovery proves that trees communicate between each other – http://t.co/84pnCXD

  90. justinTNT (@justintnt) · July 12, 2011

    insight into how trees ‘communicate’ via a mycorrhizal network; new individuals show better survival rate if they’re… http://t.co/RmykRDc

  91. miraj khaled (@asterix) · July 12, 2011

    "Do trees communicate?" by: @brlamb http://t.co/6MwWK6S > @hrheingold wonders if they may even form kind of a #flashhmob?

  92. Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://t.co/jMEhGkL [via @newsycombinator]

  93. Joaquin Bravo (@jackbravo) · July 12, 2011

    Avatar tenía razón. Los árboles se comunican unos con otros: http://t.co/hdcw1W2

  94. Sherman D (@sherms24) · July 12, 2011

    Cool. "@rob_fe: This is nuts, new discovery proves that trees communicate between each other – http://t.co/uArbr3E"

  95. Trees as Networks
    http://t.co/u9N5AG0

  96. juliepiatt (@jaiseed) · July 12, 2011

    Lv this RT @Robindrafari: Research finds that Douglas fir trees are networked, communicate & share resources http://t.co/Ew6meyi -

  97. Miguel Vaz (@migueljvaz) · July 12, 2011

    Wow, just like Avatar? RT @hackernewsbot: Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://t.co/vpZmp3J

  98. Mariann Hardey (@mazrred) · July 12, 2011

    Wonders Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://t.co/B0Us4Cw #abject

  99. Richard Delta · July 12, 2011

    This reminds me a little of Avatar planet where the whole planet’s life can sense each other…cool! and thanks for that link to the UBC botanical blog- heading over there now.

  100. Natural networks: do trees communicate? http://t.co/2arvmMu

  101. Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… | Abject http://t.co/ZG8Od7D

  102. calufa (@calufa) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… | @Abject http://t.co/vAEUOr7

  103. Yeah, that logging we have planned? Apparently I will be killing network of fir that will talk shit about me after. http://t.co/7eIk8LI

  104. Sebastian Dittmann (@dittsn) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? http://t.co/g5wgiZV

  105. Do trees communicate? Networks, networks http://t.co/knBUAfh

  106. Do trees on Earth, as in Pandora, communicate? http://t.co/GM3jll8

  107. Doug Belshaw (@dajbelshaw) · July 12, 2011

    Is mycorrhizal learning the new rhizomatic learning? http://j.mp/q7B8Y6 / cc @davecormier

  108. Pingback: Being of the Web - CogDogBlog
  109. P · July 12, 2011

    stupid

  110. Ryan McHardy (@ryanmchardy) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… | Abject http://t.co/Dik0Eud

  111. Pingback: Complexité, Simplexité, Minimalisme : une recherche méthodologique :: complexitys
  112. Do trees communicate? Networks, networks…( http://t.co/tLLjnfy )

  113. Pingback: Complexité, Simplexité, Minimalisme : une recherche méthodologique | immaginoteca
  114. Duygu Atacan (@datcn) · July 12, 2011

    Alraayt got me some @sitesimon recognition RT Nice Find!!! RT @datcn: Incredible "Do trees communicate?" http://t.co/SzjP5TL #nature

  115. merzak emerzak (@emerzak) · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate? Networks, networks:)).http://t.co/4ArbVWL

  116. Steven Scott · July 12, 2011

    Looking for info about low frequency sounds emitted by trees. These sounds can be heard by animals and birds, but not by humans.

  117. Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… | As seen at Abject by @brlamb | http://t.co/baZFwNbQ #Mycorrhizal #postdoc

  118. Pingback: Complexité, Simplexité, Minimalisme : une recherche méthodologique | complexitys
  119. Bryan Jackson (@bryanjack) · July 12, 2011

    Do Trees Communicate?| Very cool post from @brlamb passed my way by @drgarcia http://t.co/WkihzoHD #talons

  120. @onepercentyello Have you seen @brlamb’s post about trees communicating http://t.co/mR2qA5cV

  121. Pingback: reading in a rhizome « onepercentyellow
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  124. Peter Mare · July 12, 2011

    Mother tree? Father tree? Or parent tree?

  125. Pingback: Oskari.me » Mycorrhizal networks and learning
  126. manuel llano (@manullano) · July 12, 2011

    Para quienes gustan asombrarse de su planeta: los árboles se comunican con una red bajo tierra http://t.co/dZdOAQ8e

  127. Lee Hall (@VeganMeans) · July 12, 2011

    If you like #trees, @birdy27, this will hold your attention: http://t.co/vGfvd4ST

  128. the brainstorming process for @egcon2013 has taken us to mycorrhizal network visualization and a blog post from @brlamb http://t.co/ZDoKBtQX

  129. Pingback: Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… | Abject | i spy | Scoop.it
  130. @ken_homer · July 12, 2011

    Do Trees Communicate? Fascinating short video on how mycorrhizal networks operate: http://t.co/dFI7WK9C thnx to @hrheingold

  131. @srenan · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate and cooperate > yup < http://t.co/DZW3X75X #cooplit @hrheingold

  132. Pingback: Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… | Cooperation Theory & Practice | Scoop.it
  133. @hrheingold · July 12, 2011

    Do trees communicate/cooperate? #cooplit http://t.co/j0EZswIV

  134. Pingback: Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… | e-Xploration | Scoop.it
  135. Pingback: Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… | Didactics and Technology in Education | Scoop.it
  136. Pingback: Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… | connectivity | Scoop.it
  137. @MarkElliott · July 12, 2011

    I keep seeing more around this theme over the last few years: Do trees communicate? Networks, networks… http://t.co/rLrUA4N7O9

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  146. @anpob · July 12

    I wonder if this data could be synthesized into a common forest language to listen and learn http://t.co/YOBk4bM5sM

  147. @WyckoffWoodwork · July 12

    Fascinating stuff! – Do #Trees Communicate? #Mycorrhizal Networks? http://t.co/yhl0ArOXJj

  148. @jmc3ualberta · July 12

    Do trees communicate? fascinating video clip http://t.co/faP2AS2Tzz – interspecies communication network #COMM506

  149. @SeanAJones · July 12

    Terrific, thanks! MT @jmc3ualberta: Do trees communicate?http://t.co/2lyLq52m8l – interspecies communication network #COMM506

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