Research suggests that trees don’t just compete for survival, but also cooperate and share resources using underground fungi networks. A forest has an amazing ability to communicate and behave like a single organism — an ecosystem.

The fungi and the trees are in a mutually beneficial relationship: the fungi cannot photosynthesize, as they have no access to light and no chlorophyll. So they get a type of sugar produced in photosynthesis and carbon from the trees. In return for sugar and carbon, fungi release nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen, as well as water, to the trees. Furthermore, the fungi will connect one tree to another through their network, which allows them to defend themselves more effectively.

Trees that get attacked by bugs, for instance, release chemical signals into the fungi. Neighboring trees pick up these signals and increase their own resistance to the threat.

In this ecosystem the older trees, also called “hub trees”, play a crucial role. They are better connected through the fungi network and their excess carbon helps the development of seedlings. These hub trees also help forests adapt to climate change. They’ve lived for a long time and lived through fluctuations in climate. They curate that memory in the DNA. The DNA is encoded and has adapted through mutations to this environment. So that genetic code carries the code for variable climates coming up.

We must slow the rate of deforestation, preserve older trees and maintain diversity instead of going for “simplified plantations” of only one or two species. Forests are huge carbon storers, they’re our biggest assets against climate change.

Please watch the brief 3½ minutes video.