National Treasure #169: Suzanne Simard

You know that synchronicity thing? Where you hear an idea new to you from a few places in a short period?

Well, I recently read a book by Peter Wohlleben, a German forester, asserting (among other things) that trees communicate with each other.

The documentary film Intelligent Trees features several of Wohlleben’s observations. It portrays him alongside Suzanne Simard, a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, whose research supports most of Wohlleben’s observations about communication among trees.

And now we come to the point. A recent blog by Jim Taylor referred to Suzanne Simard’s work on tree communication for UBC. Yes, the very same Suzanne Simard mentioned in this Wiki article.

I figure anyone who thinks to ask whether other forms of life have connections not obvious to us is a national treasure, no matter what the answer turns out to be.

When I reached Simard by phone, she described how she and her colleagues track the flow of nutrients and chemical signals through this invisible underground network. They injected fir trees with radioactive carbon isotopes, then followed the spread of the isotopes through the forest community using a variety of sensing methods, including a Geiger counter. Within a few days, stores of radioactive carbon had been routed from tree to tree. Every tree in a plot thirty metres square was connected to the network; the oldest trees functioned as hubs, some with as many as forty-seven connections. The diagram of the forest network resembled an airline route map.



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2 Responses to National Treasure #169: Suzanne Simard

  1. Fascinating. Ents among us. My long held love of trees vindicated.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – I guess there’s quite a controversy around using neurological language for plant activities, but it’s enough for me that there’s more going on (a lot more) than I had ever imagined.

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