‘A vast, ancient and intricate society’: the secret social network of old-growth forests
…For her doctoral thesis, Suzanne Simard decided to investigate fungal links between Douglas fir and paper birch in the forests of British Columbia. …Now a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, Simard, who is 60, has studied webs of root and fungi in the Arctic, temperate and coastal forests of North America for nearly three decades. Her initial inklings about the importance of mycorrhizal networks were prescient, inspiring whole new lines of research that ultimately overturned long-standing misconceptions about forest ecosystems. By analysing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest – even trees of different species. …The most radical interpretation of Simard’s findings is that a forest behaves “as though it’s a single organism”, as she says in her TED Talk.