Mother trees that communicate to their seedlings, sending them nutrients? Trees that share information among species to ensure their mutual survival? These are the findings of University of British Columbia Forestry researcher Dr. Suzanne Simard, and her studies illuminate the critical importance of forest stewardship and specifying FSC (Forest stewardship Council) certified wood.
In her TED talk, Simard discusses how roots of fungi form a dense root network system that trees co-opt. Called Mycorrhizae, this root system becomes the link between a tree’s root system forming a node/link network. Simard has found that trees will transit carbon to their own understory seedlings enhancing the potential for survival by four times. Species cooperate as well, sharing carbon seasonally. Fir and birch, for example share carbon seasonally: In the summer when the Douglas fir is more shaded, it receives excess carbon from the birch. Later in the fall, when the birch is losing its leaves, excess carbon from the fir is transmitted through the same fungal exchange system.
We think of forests as competing but Simard has found forest are a cooperative system, sharing resources, communicating threats and “talking” to kin.
After hearing Simard’s TED talk I am humbled by how smart forests are. Good forest stewardship requires a more sophisticated knowledge of the local forest, promotion of a diversity of species, and conservation of these mother or node trees.
Wood framing is the bread and butter of residential home building in North America. At HEDS we specify FSC certified wood. The mission of the FSC is to promote environmentally sound and socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests. The need to conserve biological diversity and maintain the ecological functions and integrity of the forest is all the more critical in light of Simard’s research. How can forestry practices reinforce the capacity for forests to regenerate? Simard’s research illuminates how important it is to save old growth forest and reduce clear cutting to ensure the perpetuation of healthy forests.