Wood Wide Web

It seems that we are not the first species to have developed an internet. Apparently plants ‘talk’ to eachother using the mycelium of fungi. The part of fungi we’re most familiar with, the mushroom, is only its reproductive organ, the ‘body’ is a network called the mycelium. Many funghi and plants are known to engage in a symbiosis called mycorrhiza, where the roots of the plant connect to the mycelium of the fungus. The plant provides the fungus with food in the form of carbohydrates, while fungus provides nitrogen and phosporous and helps the plants pump up water. The presence of the fungus also activates the plants immune system helping the plant protect itself against pathogens.

But what’s truly amazing, plants several meters away from eachother exchange food and information through this network, researcher now call the Wood Wide Web. Plants in the shade unable to produce enough food are sustained by other plants through the mycelium. Plants also communicate the presence of pathogens or other pests to neighouring plants in this way. Apart from these beneficial effects some plants use the mycelium to leech nutrients from other plants or use the network to disperse chemicals that prevent the growth of competing plants. Research now suggests that most plants in a forest are connected in this way a scenario that beckons of the  movie Avatar where all life on the moon Pandora is connected in a similar way.

Competition on any level is so often justified as something natural, referencing to the ‘law of the jungle’ and ‘survival of the fittest’. This shows that cooperation is just as natural, if not more natural.

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