Suzanne Simard (born 1960) is a Canadian scientist who is a professor in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia. After growing up in the Monashee Mountains, British Columbia, she received her PhD in Forest Sciences at Oregon State University. Prior to teaching at the University of British Columbia, Simard worked as a research scientist at the British Columbia Ministry of Forests.
Simard is best known for the research she conducted on the underground networks of forests characterized by fungi and roots. She studies how these fungi and roots facilitate communication and interaction between trees and plants of an ecosystem. Within the communication between trees and plants is the exchange of carbon, water, nutrients and defense signals between trees. Simard is also a leader of TerreWEB, an initiative set to train graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in global change science and its communication.
She used rare carbon isotopes as tracers in both field and greenhouse experiments to measure the flow and sharing of carbon between individual trees and species, and discovered, for instance, that birch and Douglas fir share carbon. Birch trees receive extra carbon from Douglas firs when the birch trees lose their leaves, and birch trees supply carbon to Douglas fir trees that are in the shade.
Simard found that “fir trees were using the fungal web to trade nutrients with paper-bark birch trees over the course of the season”. For example, tree species can loan one another sugars as deficits occur within seasonal changes. This is a particularly beneficial exchange between deciduous and coniferous trees as their energy deficits occur during different periods. The benefit “of this cooperative underground economy appears to be better over-all health, more total photosynthesis, and greater resilience in the face of disturbance”.
Fantastic Fungi Trailer
Fantastic Fungi is a consciousness-shifting film that takes us on an immersive journey through time and scale into the magical earth beneath our feet, an underground network that can heal and save our planet.
“A forest is much more than what you see,” says ecologist Suzanne Simard. Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery — trees talk, often and over vast distances. Learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes.
Finding the Mother Tree
Simard identified something called a hub tree, or “mother tree”. Mother trees are the largest trees in forests that act as central hubs for vast below-ground mycorrhizal networks. A mother tree supports seedlings by infecting them with fungi and supplying them the nutrients they need to grow.
She discovered that Douglas firs provide carbon to baby firs. She found that there was more carbon sent to baby firs that came from that specific mother tree, than random baby firs not related to that specific fir tree. It was also found the mother trees change their root structure to make room for baby trees.
Her book Finding the Mother Tree asserts that forest ecologies are interdependent with fungal mycelium. She asserts that trees (and other plants) exchange sugars through their respective root systems and through interconnected fungal mycelial structures to share (and at times trade) micronutrients.
“Wikiwand – Suzanne Simard.” Wikiwand, http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Suzanne_Simard. Accessed 14 Feb. 2023.
Intelligent Trees Trailer
A Documentary Film (45 min.) about how trees communicate with each other, featuring forester and bestselling author Peter Wohlleben (‘The Hidden Life of Trees’)…