Do Trees Talk?
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Do Trees Talk?

Hey smart people, Joe here. Beneath your feet there is a secret network. This network trades resources, transmits information,
and can even go to war. I know what you’re thinking, and no, this
isn’t the world wide web. It’s something much older. 450 million years older. And it makes life on Earth as we know it possible. This is the wood wide web. The most important social network on Earth. [MUSIC] Walk into a forest and just listen. (forest noises) You can’t hear it, but the forest is communicating. If you’ve never noticed this before it’s
because all of this is happening below your feet. The wood wide web is a network created by
fungi. They’re called mycorrhizal fungi and these
fungi live in and around the roots of trees and other plants. Fungi are a huge domain on the tree of life,
and as you’ve probably noticed by now, nobody knows how you’re supposed to actually say
it. I’m going with “fun guy” because that’s
what I am. Fungi include molds, mushrooms and yeasts,
and as a whole they are essential to making all of Earth’s organic garbage and dead
stuff decompose and disappear. While some fungi do resemble plants, they
are definitely not plants. They’re technically more closely related
to animals… but really fungi are a form of life like no other. Fungi don’t fossilize well so it’s hard
to know exactly when they first appeared in the evolutionary scene, but some fossil records
show mycorrhizal fungi have been living in this partnership since the first land plants
appeared in the Paleozoic, around 400 million years ago. These underground fungi are essential to plant
survival. They also extend hair-like filaments called
hyphae into the soil which pump water even more efficiently than the tree’s own roots. Just like we need our vitamins and minerals
to grow, so do trees. Plants from rose bushes to towering redwoods
need these micronutrients to survive! And mycorrhizal fungi are efficient little
miners. They use acid to bore holes into rocks and
fish out nitrogen and phosphorous. In exchange for all this subterranean service,
a tree provides the mycorrhizal fungi with sugar, created through photosynthesis. Trees release between 20-80% of the glucose
they create to their fungal partners. And older trees, the grandpop-lars and grandma-ples,
have more complex fungal interconnections than younger trees. But these mycorrhizal fungi do more than trade
minerals, water and sugar with their host tree. They also form massive branching networks
of the fungal threads, called mycelium, that can extend thousands of acres, connecting
entire forests. If you dig into the forest dirt, you may see
these thousands of tiny white tubes if you look closely. In a single pinch of dirt these hyphae, when
lined up, can extend 11 km! And these networks act as fungal freeways
for shipping chemical currencies. The fungi can act like a seasonal bank account
for trees, giving loans of sugar if the trees need an extra boost. Scientists have found that if a tree is dying,
it will release its extra glucose into the wood wide web where it can delivered to younger
nearby trees, even trees of a different species. Trees can also use the network to send out
warning signals. If insects bite into one tree, it can send
a chemical signal through the wood wide web, and when trees deeper in the forest receive
this insect alert message, they produce bitter compounds that make their leaves less tasty
to those same insects. “The Ents are going to war!” Some trees, like black walnuts, even use the
network to spread chemical attacks, sabotaging other trees that try to grow too close. Across the globe, there are two main types
of these mycorrhizal fungi that make up the wood wide web. Trees in cooler climates tend to host one
type, which create huge interconnected networks that cover massive areas. But warmer, tropical forests tend to be dominated
by a different type, which create smaller, more localized networks. It’s like the difference between big, national
chain stores and your local farmers’ market. The balance between these two types of wood
wide webs is important to Earth’s climate. In general, the massive interconnected forest
fungal webs tend to lock up carbon in the soil as they decompose stuff. And the more local network fungi tend to release
more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As global temperatures warm up, forests are
changing, and the balance of these two types of fungal networks is changing too. More of the planet covered with tropical forests
means those large, carbon-storing fungal networks will be replaced by the more localized fungal
networks which release carbon into the air, which will just accelerate climate change,
which, even though plants eat CO2, is still not good. So next time you’re walking through a forest,
take a moment to think about the very small but also very large network that exists under
your feet. Just because you can’t log on to the wood
wide web, doesn’t mean you aren’t connected. It’s time we think of forests as more than
trees. Stay curious.

100 thoughts on “Do Trees Talk?

  1. For some reason, I can’t get my mouth to say “mycorrhizal” without it sounding like “microrrhizal”. Stupid mouth. Anyway, enjoy learning about the most important biological network no one pays attention to!
    I’m on Twitter and Instagram: @DrJoeHanson and @okaytobesmart

  2. Trees are not dumb they can feel everything. Thank you Jagadish Chandra Bose. An Indian scientist who proved that plants are like any other life form. He proved that plants have a definite life cycle, a reproductive system and are aware of their surroundings. Before his findings science did not acknowledge the vitality of trees and plants.

  3. The wood wide web operates much like a human brain and nervous system do. Perhaps one day the Earth itself will become a self-aware, sentient being. And perhaps it is at this point that the Earth finds a way to finally eliminate the viral humans that are destroying her insides.

  4. grreat … venous flycatchers… ahh… fly cannot get the signal into the morphogenetic film to avoid that plant, s to be ''too busy'' at that particular time

  5. "Fungi" is pronounced as mushrooms in Italian

  6. Fantastic intro. This was on my timeline just after a terrence McKenna quote, "nature is alive, and its talking to us. This is not a metaphor."

  7. Talk about teegarden b and c! I think they are the most recent discovered planets in our habitable zone, also replacing keplers most closest planet to earth with teegarden b and c!

  8. We have to fight climate change.
    Depopulate africa, and china and colonize them with white people.

    But not j-ews. J-ews are pure evil.

  9. When he calls me a "smart person" I feel great – like I want to watch more of his videos! (Wait … he's not manipulating me, is he?)

  10. Wait… Did you just kinda say we should get rid of the rainforest and plant more trees in colder climate regions?? So when i see a post about "this tropical country just broke the world record and planted 2 million trees in only half an hour" it's not actually helping climate change??

  11. Oak trees somehow communicate with each other. Depending on the squirrel and deer, ect. population every year, the trees vary thier production of acorns. The study I read didn't say how the trees "talked" to each other, besides saying it was either chemical or hormones. In the 40 plus years since I read about this, I have observed this to be true. They don't have a brain, amazing.

  12. You didn't say anything new people who fought in Vietname will tell you that but back than trees spoke vienamees.

  13. meanwhile, we are destroying this wonderful network. it pains me to think of all the flora and fauna dying in the amazon as we speak.

  14. this reminds me of a avatar(2009) scene where one of the scientists discovers that the moon pandora has a kind of biological world wide web.

  15. In North Africa we pronounce the word Fungi like this:Fugaya!!!
    i think our ancestors "Berbers Amazigh" took it from Latin a long time ago…thank you very much i really enjoy your videos…❤ from Algeria.

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