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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Wood Wide Web

Wood Wide Web


Trees Communicate Within an Ecosystem (credit: Wood Wide Web)

Biological field and laboratory research continues uncovering connections within forests. From alerting other trees of insect attack; providing nutrients to help saplings survive; to fighting for space with other trees; and to attract pollinators in from afar, trees use chemical signals to accomplish these tasks and more. Trees are now appearing to have "a secret life" previously unbeknownst within a forest.

In the discovery of these new ecosystem connections, almost like the brain's network of nerve synapse, trees show how they protect themselves, produce favorable conditions for their establishment; and fight "wars" with other plants using a means of communication.

The "key" to understanding these modes of these plant communications is a symbiotic relationship between a tree's root system and various fungi called a mycorrhiza (from the Greek, mykós (fungus) and riza (roots)). The new ecological findings offer many practical applications. This includes restoration of damaged or degraded landscapes to uses in agroecology where ecological principals are applied to organic agricultural production rather than petrochemical applications.

The BBC has taken some of this new understanding of trees and used clever animation to explain some of the research.

So, when you walk through an old forest again, realize you're in the presence of a 'super organism' of trees, a virtual 'wood wide web'. This may be one of the most vital pieces of biological knowledge to have been revealed.



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