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Trees...Rooted in Community

 On a wet and windy November evening a beautifully decorated village hall welcomed everyone with atmospheric fairy lighting, cafe style seating, little tables scattered with scarlet Liquidambar leaves, conkers, pine cones and aromas of essential oils from Pine and Cedar. There were wall displays of multi coloured leaf prints and 'tree' poems, complimentary mulled wine/apple juice, delicious savouries and cakes. 

There was a most enjoyable selection of tree-themed folk songs performed by our talented and versatile musicians Jaki Alden & Pete Wilks who sang and played a variety of instruments including cello, banjo and flute.

24.11.24.Trees.Photo C Sharp 4Jaki Alden and Peter Wilks. Photo: Carol Sharp

 There were displays of Ogham (The Celtic Tree Alphabet), exquisite wood crafts to admire and some items to buy, as well as books to browse and native tree saplings to take home. A revisit to the 100 Trees for Forncett project from three years ago pictured a selection of people from the village with the trees they pledged to plant.

24.11.24.Trees.Photo C Sharp 3aHelen Baczkowska talks about the importance of trees. Photo: Carol Sharp

 The main event of the evening was a brilliant and enlightening talk from Helen Baczkowska from Norfolk Wildlife Trust.  Helen’s talk informed us about the value of trees in ecosystems and the connectedness of trees, including very ancient trees and even stumps. She told us about the Fortingall Yew in Scotland, one of the oldest living beings in Europe, its age estimated as between 5,000-9000 years old, and how it has split into several stems as it dies back in the centre, reconfigured, but is still perfectly healthy. Like many Yews it is sited in a churchyard. However, these were sacred trees to people long before Christianity.

2024.02.Rooted in CommunityPart of the wood wide web. Photo: Carol Sharp

The Wood Wide Web

The fairy-tale forest has long been conjured as a magical place, and now we are finding that films like Avatar, where a Mother tree nurtures the whole forest, is not so fantastical. There is a network of tree communication underground, through their root systems, affectionately called the ‘wood wide web’. Very fine fungal strands called mycorrhiza connect the roots from one tree to another and the largest networks can extend out for several miles.

Rather than continually compete, trees pass nutrients and warning signals to each other - they actually support one another. Just like us they assist their own families first and foremost. Older trees send water to their own saplings in preference to other trees. Mother trees nurture their young.

But these fungal threads also link trees of different species. Forest ecologist Suzanne Simard’s now famous rigorous scientific experiments found that Douglas Fir trees were using the fungal web to trade nutrients with paper-bark birch trees. The evergreen species will tide over the deciduous one when it has sugars to spare, and then call in the debt later in the season. For the forest community, the value of this co-operative underground economy appears to be better over-all health, more total photosynthesis, and greater resilience in the face of disturbance.

The tree and the mycorrhizal fungi are a symbiotic system, working together to exchange nutrients. The fungi need carbon rich sugar from the tree and the tree needs the nutrients which the fungi has enzymes to reach,but the tree’s roots can’t.

The fungi link the trees together into a huge resource sharing community; trees, understory plants, fungi and microbes in a forest are so thoroughly connected, communicative and co-dependent that some scientists have described them as superorganisms. Simard says the forest behaves “as though it's a single organism.”

References

Suzanne Simard : Ted Talk

 February 2024

 

Trees final border for website

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