"A forest is much more than what you see," says ecologist Suzanne Simard. Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery - trees talk, often and over vast distances. Learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes.
Simard helped identify something called a hub tree, or "mother tree". Mother trees are the largest trees in forests that act as central hubs for vast below-ground mycorrhizal networks. A mother tree supports seedlings by infecting them with fungi and supplying them the nutrients they need to grow.
She discovered that Douglas Firs provide carbon to baby firs. She found that there was more carbon sent to baby firs that came from that specific mother tree, than random baby firs not related to that specific fir tree. It was also found the mother trees change their root structure to make room for baby trees.
Simard found that "fir trees were using the fungal web to trade nutrients with paper-bark birch trees over the course of the season". For example, tree species can loan one another sugars as deficits occur within seasonal changes. This is a particularly beneficial exchange between deciduous and coniferous trees as their energy deficits occur during different periods. The benefit "of this cooperative underground economy appears to be better over-all health, more total photosynthesis, and greater resilience in the face of disturbance".