Fungal networks interconnecting trees in a forest is a key factor that determines the nature of forests and their response to climate change.
Fungal networks interconnecting trees in a forest is a key factor that determines the nature of forests and their response to climate change. These networks have also been viewed as a means for trees to help their offspring and other tree-friends, according to the increasingly popular “mother-tree hypothesis”. An international group of researchers re-examined the evidence for and against this hypothesis in a new study.
Trees in a forest are interconnected through thread-like structures of symbiotic fungi, called hyphae, which together form an underground network called a mycorrhizal network. While it is well known that the mycorrhizal fungi deliver nutrients to trees in exchange for carbon supplied by the trees, the so-called mother-tree hypothesis implies a whole new purpose of these networks. Through the network, the biggest and oldest trees, also known as mother trees, share carbon and nutrients with the saplings growing in particularly shady areas where there is not enough sunlight for adequate photosynthesis. The network structure should also enable mother trees to detect the ill health of their neighbors through distress signals, alerting them to send these trees the nutrients they need to heal. In this way, mother trees are believed to act as central hubs, communicating with both young seedlings and other large trees around them to increase their chances of survival.
Read more at: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
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