Live Like a Tree #2


Māhanga forest community. How many different species can you spot all living together here—and there will be thousands more that you can’t see. It is this variety that makes the community so strong.

One of the great discoveries over recent years about trees is that in forests they are connected below the ground with millions of minute threads of fungi. This intricate network has even been compared to the neural network in our brains. Which raises some challenging implications: imagine a giant brain embedded in the forest floor!

What is certain however is that, in this way, trees form communities. The key benefit of this is resilience. If one tree in the forest happens to be on a poor patch of rocky soil it will not grow as fast; and being weaker, it might fall over in a storm or die from pests and disease. This is not good for the community: wind could get into the gap and blow over other trees, or the disease could spread. So it is in other trees’ interests to protect and nurture the weakling. They do this by passing nutrients and even water along the fungi threads, sharing the resources of the land equally. The fungi benefit by using some of those nutrients that they would otherwise be unable to reach.

So the prospects for individual trees are dependent on the strength of community networks and it is worth every trees’ while to look after each other. Are humans that smart? Thankfully many are, especially in indigenous communities. But unfortunately western culture encourages a strong sense of individualism and I don’t think that ultimately this is good for us as survival becomes more challenging. We are all in this together and can learn a lot from trees.

We need to act like a tree in a forest.

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