The secret life of forests
For generations, scientists assumed trees were solitary beings — until Suzanne Simard and other ecologists revealed something native communities had long understood: forests are richly interdependent ecosystems.
Trees and fungi interact in a network of communication, resource sharing, and negotiation that are complex and infinite. Trees that are in trouble can send messages to nearby trees, which can send protective enzymes to support their neighbors. Veteran trees — the oldest, largest, and most interconnected — can pass on wisdom to new generations of seedlings. And sometimes before a tree dies, it passes on its carbon — a vital resource — to neighboring trees.
Known as mycorrhizas, these vibrant networks exist almost entirely under the forest floor, and represent a fascinating study of collaboration as collective thriving.
“The Social Life of Forests” by Ferris Jabr in The New York Times offers a window into this symbiotic world, which serves as a powerful mirror to us as members of human networks — about the richness and possibility in interdependence, and the invaluable wisdom of generations past as we care for one another in the present — and for generations to come.