20 August 2019

This tree stump is "undead"


One of the most interesting things I've learned in recent years is the degree to which trees and other plants communicate with one another.  An old Radiolab podcast covered the topic, and more can be found by asking Mr. Google.  Here's more from a Gizmodo article:
A tree stump in New Zealand is very much alive, thanks to an interconnected root system that benefits both the stump and its neighboring trees. Scientists say this unusual symbiotic arrangement could change our very conception of what it means to be a tree...

On some occasions, these elaborate root systems involve a seemingly dead tree stump, an observation first made in the 1830s. Why living trees should expend resources to support leafless cohorts is not fully understood, nor the extent to which resources are shared among living trees and stumps...

These measurements indicated that the kauri stump is inactive during the day when living trees transpire. But during the night and on rainy days, the tree stump becomes active, circulating water—and presumably carbon and nutrients—through its tissues...

For the stump, the advantages of this arrangement are obvious—it gets to stay alive despite not being able to produce carbohydrates. But as the authors point out in the study, this arrangement may actually be symbiotic in nature.  Joined together, for example, the living trees have enhanced access to resources like water and nutrients. This setup also increases the stability of the trees on the steep forest slope, with the firm, healthy roots working to prevent erosion.
It all makes perfect sense.   There is so much to see in the world if you only take the time to look.

3 comments:

  1. That reminds me of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's prose poem "The Elm Log", in which he says, "That log cherished life as dearly as we did; indeed, its urge to live was even stronger than ours."
    Although others might be reminded me Jeff Goldblum saying, "Life, uh, finds a way."

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  2. Puts the phrase, "Dumb as a stump," in a new light. Nature never ceases to amaze me. This story and the recent post about ticks altering an enzyme (to keep blood from clotting) are examples of the complexity of supposedly simple living organisms.

    On another note, what a great avocation, studying stumps. Sign me up.

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  3. Want to know more? Read The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Excellent read.

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