Wood Wide Web – The Internet of Trees

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By Suradip Das

What is Wood Wide Web ?

Certain fungi reside on the roots of trees in a symbiotic relationship. These fungi send out tube like structures called hyphae, which infiltrate the soil and weave into the tips of plant roots at a cellular level. These underground hyphal networks, believed to be 450 million years old, form a dazzling and complex architecture of information highways in forests for interplant communication and is called the “Wood Wide Web”.

Utility of Wood Wide Web

Forest dynamics study in the Epping forest (Greater London) and Douglas Fir forests (Northern America) reveal that this fungal network allows plants to distribute resources—sugar, nitrogen, and phosphorus between one another. Additionally, plants also communicate warning signals between one another using this network.

Copyright: GetInsight.blog 2020

Just like our optical fiber-based Internet highways, these hyphal networks have nodes and hubs. It is estimated that one hub tree is connected to 47 others through this network.

Recently, scientists have been able to generate a global distribution map of these underground fungi across 28000 species of trees. They found that local climatic conditions determine the type of fungi forming the network.

Further Reading

The Secrets of the Wood Wide Web

Steidinger et al, Nature, 569, 404–408 (2019)

Gabriel Popkin, ‘Wood wide web’—the underground network of microbes that connects trees, Science, May 2019.

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