Suzanne Simard: How trees talk to each other
Suzanne Simard - Forest ecologist
Suzanne Simard studies the complex, symbiotic networks in our forests. Full bio
of a collection of trees,
and their beautiful crowns.
than what you see,
the way you think about forests.
there is this other world,
and allow them to communicate
as though it's a single organism.
of a sort of intelligence.
of British Columbia.
and stare up at the tree crowns.
cedar poles from the inland rainforest.
and cohesive ways of the woods,
had slipped and fallen into the pit.
to rescue the poor dog.
through that forest floor,
was the white mycelium
and yellow mineral horizons.
rescued the poor dog,
alongside the powerful people
conflicted by my part in it.
and hacking of the aspens and birches
valuable planted pines and firs
this relentless industrial machine.
in the laboratory in vitro
to another pine seedling root.
could this happen in real forests?
share information below ground.
getting research funding.
some experiments deep in the forest,
and western red cedar.
would be connected in a belowground web,
so I had to do it on the cheap.
and duct tape and shade cloth,
high-tech stuff from my university:
a mass spectrometer, microscopes.
really dangerous stuff:
carbon-14 carbon dioxide gas
carbon-13 carbon dioxide gas.
the filters for my respirator.
we got out to our plot
chased us off.
forest research in Canada goes.
carbon dioxide gases,
carbon-13 carbon dioxide gas.
going on between these species.
mama grizzly showed up again.
and I jumped into the truck,
the CO2 through photosynthesis,
send it down into their roots,
to their neighbors.
eating her huckleberries.
and I got to work.
I pulled the bag off.
the radioactive gas.
"Hey, can I help you?"
can you send me some of your carbon?
threw a shade cloth over me."
the Geiger counter over its leaves,
interlinking birch and fir.
and I checked all 80 replicates.
were in a lively two-way conversation.
than fir was sending back to birch,
we found the opposite,
than birch was sending to fir,
growing while the birch was leafless.
everything came into focus for me.
we look at how trees interact in forests,
how we practice forestry,
and more practical.
in complex systems like forests?
we have to do our research in the forests,
as I've shown you.
at running from bears.
stacked against us.
and our experiences
and then go verify.
hundreds of experiments in the forest.
are now over 30 years old.
and Douglas fir communicating?
not only in the language of carbon
and allele chemicals and hormones --
before me, scientists had thought
mutualistic symbiosis called a mycorrhiza
when you walk through the forest.
are just the tip of the iceberg,
are fungal threads that form a mycelium,
infects and colonizes the roots
interact with the root cells,
by growing through the soil
hundreds of kilometers of mycelium
different individuals in the forest,
but between species, like birch and fir,
the short sequences of DNA
in a patch of Douglas fir forest.
the Douglas fir, or the nodes,
fungal highways, or the links.
are the busiest nodes.
that those hub trees nurture their young,
that have established within the network
connected to hundreds of other trees.
through the mycorrhizal network
with increased seedling survival
favor our own children,
recognize its own kin,
with kin and stranger's seedlings.
they do recognize their kin.
with bigger mycorrhizal networks.
their own root competition
on to the next generation of seedlings.
from an injured mother tree
into the mycorrhizal network
of those seedlings to future stresses.
of the whole community.
of our own social communities,
collections of trees,
with hubs and networks
and allow them to communicate,
for feedbacks and adaptation,
and many overlapping networks.
to natural disturbances
attack big old trees
and clear-cut logging.
one or two hub trees,
unlike rivets in an airplane.
and the plane still flies,
about forests? Differently?
that I hoped that my research,
the way we practice forestry.
30 years later here in western Canada.
to the west of us,
reported that Canada in the past decade
rate of any country worldwide,
four times the rate that is sustainable.
is known to affect hydrological cycles,
back into the atmosphere,
and more tree diebacks.
to plant one or two species
to infections and bugs.
mountain pine beetle outbreak
couple months in Alberta.
to my final question:
and help them deal with climate change?
about forests as complex systems
capacity to self-heal.
and retention of hub trees
of species and genes and genotypes
they recover really rapidly.
with four simple solutions.
that these are too complicated to act on.
to get out in the forest.
local involvement in our own forests.
a one-size-fits-all approach,
requires knowledge of local conditions.
our old-growth forests.
and mother trees and mycorrhizal networks.
onto the next generation of trees
the future stresses coming down the road.
with a diversity of species
the tools she needs
that forests aren't just a bunch of trees
showed me this other world,
how you think about forests.
About the speaker:Suzanne Simard - Forest ecologist
Suzanne Simard studies the complex, symbiotic networks in our forests.
Why you should listen
A professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia's Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences in Vancouver, Suzanne Simard studies the surprising and delicate complexity in nature. Her main focus is on the below-ground fungal networks that connect trees and facilitate underground inter-tree communication and interaction. Her team's analysis revealed that the fungi networks move water, carbon and nutrients such as nitrogen between and among trees as well as across species. The research has demonstrated that these complex, symbiotic networks in our forests -- at the hub of which stand what she calls the "mother trees" -- mimic our own neural and social networks. This groundbreaking work on symbiotic plant communication has far-reaching implications in both the forestry and agricultural industries, in particular concerning sustainable stewardship of forests and the plant’s resistance to pathogens. She works primarily in forests, but also grasslands, wetlands, tundra and alpine ecosystems.
Suzanne Simard | Speaker | TED.com