Trees grow by taking in carbon dioxide from the environment, mixing it with sunlight, and producing sugar: a simple, straightforward process known as photosynthesis. Right? Well, recent research suggests that there may be something interesting going on underground when it comes to a tree’s growth.
A study at the University of Basel in Switzerland was in the process of experimenting to see how trees would react if the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased. Scientists sprayed carbon dioxide (with a mixture of other necessary carbon isotopes) into a forest canopy of spruce trees, and spent the next five years tracing the course of the carbon dioxide to see how the trees reacted.
Within forests, trees are connected via a web of small root hairs, as well as some fungal helpers, which allow them to spread nutrients to and from each other. But can these root hairs do more than share simple nutrients?
This new research from the University of Basel suggests that trees can also share sugars, their food supply, with each other via their network of interconnected roots, says Gizmodo. Scientists found that while some of the spruce trees in the experiment did absorb more carbon dioxide as expected, a significant portion of the carbon dioxide actually migrated and ended up in the roots of neighboring trees – beech, larch and pine, to be exact.
Researchers hope to perform more studies to determine the extent to which trees, as a part of a forest, share the sugars they produce with other trees, how this may be occurring, and the importance of other companion species like fungi in the process. It seems like a forest can no longer be considered just a network of individual trees, but rather one larger entity with small interconnected parts.
If you love spruce trees as much as we do, and want to add some oxygen-producing (and sugar sharing) landscape elements to your yard, call the team at Spruce Point Tree Farm today at 970-379-2241 to learn more.