How Do Trees and Fungi Interact? Fungi, a type of small living organism, assist trees in their cooperative efforts. They belong to the Kingdom of Fungus and are neither plants nor animals. They transform decomposing stuff into food by breaking it down. Mould and mushrooms are two types of fungi taking care of their own needs, but they are also maintaining and sustaining the health of the trees. They enable the resiliency of trees.
In forests, fungus form underground networks that link the trees together. The roots of trees spread out in all directions. Fungi, which can develop on and around tree roots, reside in the same soil. The fungi develop along strands of tissue called hyphae. The hyphae can join to numerous trees as they develop. Mycorrhizal networks are webs made by fungus that connect trees.
Scientists believe that the trees and the fungi in these networks support one another. The fungi receive photosynthesis-produced sugars from the trees. The soil provides the fungi with minerals like nitrogen and phosphorus. The tree and they both use them. Scientists refer to this interaction as symbiotic.
A mycorrhizal network is a connection between trees made by fungi. Trees are able to exchange carbohydrates, nutrients, and water. A seedling might not receive enough sunlight for photosynthesis if it is growing in a shady region, for instance. However, larger trees nearby might use the fungi to transport sugar to the young tree’s roots. The same is true if a tree is dying; it may contribute nutrients to the healthier trees nearby.
Networks of mycorrhizae are not necessarily friendly. The networks will be used by certain plants to steal nutrients from their neighbours. Other plants’ food will be stolen by orchids. Additionally, there are plants that release toxins into the network. They want to destroy plants that compete with them for water and sunlight.
Additionally, trees communicate via mycorrhizal networks. Through the wood wide web, they are able to transmit electrical or chemical impulses. A tree will emit distress signals if it is being attacked by insects. Similar to how viruses can release chemicals when they kill trees. Healthy trees can strengthen their defences thanks to these signals.
According to some scientists, communications sent between trees are not the same as those sent between people. The trees are not intentionally issuing alerts. The trees are merely reacting to the attack, instead. Other plants can grasp the distress messages they give out.
Mycorrhizal networks, sometimes known as the “wood wide web,” are not just for woody plants like trees. These subsurface webs are open to all terrestrial plants. Even distinct plant species can be linked together by networks. Fungi, for instance, may connect a tree and a flower. Mycorrhizal networks are deemed crucial for healthy forests by scientists.
Content for this question contributed by Lorraine Martin, resident of Cranford, Union County, New Jersey, USA