The Ancient forests are magnificent and becoming ever more rare. They are the source of the most diverse array of life on the planet. These ancient forests are the lungs of the earth making oxygen and consuming carbon. When we look into old growth forests there are massive trees, soft ground netted with roots, plants, insects, animals and mushrooms. The canopy overhead makes a green sky with sun light twinkling through the leaves.
The largest trees in the forest are called mother trees, grandmother trees by many indigenous groups. These ancient trees can be hundreds and in some cases thousands of years old. In that time they have propagated many younger trees who will someday take their place as a mother tree. The mother tree makes a network which sustains the other organisms in the forest. Plants are not just competing against one another but working together in families and communities in reciprocal and symbiotic relationships.
Suzanne Simard says the secret to the life of the forest is in the soil. Two thirds of the forest is in the soil and only one third is above ground. Now they are finding that the plants work together in a network and community. The whole forest is a system communicating with the other organisms in the ecosystem. The plants transfer nutrients, hormones, water, nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides and many other things through a vast underground network of roots and primarily through Fungi. The forest floor is like a superhighway transporting all kinds of goods and communication between plants.
The fungi make a mycelial network throughout the forest floor. When we think of fungi in the forest we think of the mushrooms. These mushrooms are a small part of the actual organism, the main body is a vast network of mycelium a thin white root structure in the soil. Under a single foot print i n an ancient forest there is 300 miles of fungal cells moving things around the forest. Networks are nodes and links; in the forest the nodes are mother trees and the links are fungi. Fungi are neither plant nor animal they are in a kingdom of their own. The mycelium of the fungi is the padding the ancient forest floor. The mushrooms are huge organisms in the forest they are just flat and in the soil. In fact the world’s largest living organism is a fungi in Oregon.
The whole forest floor is literally covered in fungi and the organisms in the soil have to co-evolve with the fungi. Forest networks are organized like our neuro-networks and communication networks. The fungal network is a billion year old organism which allowed life to travel from the oceans to the land. Eventually the plants came into fungal symbiosis (they bonded on a cellular level) which allowed plants to photosynthesize making food from the sunlight. This led to the creation of oxygen which allowed humans to exist.
The mycelium taps into the trees and the trees give the fungi carbon based sugars, the fungi in return provide the trees with nutrients. Many plants are dependent on the fungi for survival such as the Douglas fir which could not exist without the fungi. The fungi are dependent on the trees and the trees are dependent on the fungi. The roots and the fungi are communicating and helping each other in a mutually beneficial co evolution. The fungal network can fill the small spaces and effectively extend the trees root structure. The fungi give the nutrients from fungi to fungi and from tree to tree and to other plants. I would go as far to say that the fungi also attract and give nutrients to humans and animals through the mushrooms.
This transport of nutrients was discovered by tracking the flow of nutrients through tree using radioactive CO2. Days after the tree are introduced to the radioactive CO2 the scientists can track the location of the radioactive CO2. They found the carbon had traveled to the root of the tree and out through the surrounding fungi network sending the nutrients in greatest quantity to the younger most vulnerable trees. The larger tree gives nourishment to the younger seedlings. The mother trees give more nourishment to her own kin and this giving is governed through the fungi.
The mother trees can gather much more sunlight with its impressive height and gives that nourishment to the rest of the forest. The trees are growing up in a family where the mother tree feeds young with the food she gathered. The big trees with large roots are the hubs and the systems in the forest they grow around this tree. The mother trees are like hubs for the forest network. One tree can be linked to hundreds of other trees The biggest trees the send carbon into the networks around them and the carbon is sent everywhere. The more stressed the younger trees the more the big trees give the little ones. The research shows a self-organizing and complex system of social relationships in the forest.
By Transpersonal Spirit
Nature. What Plants Talk about. Merit motion production. Written directed by Erna Buffie. 2013. DVD.
Suzanne Simard. The networked healing of forests. Ted lessons. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRSPy3ZwpBk.
Suzanne Simard The Science, Art and Meaning of Forest Wisdom -, Ph.D. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLU9EPo1iwQ