Suzanne Simard

professor of forest ecology

Suzanne Simard

professor of forest ecology

Suzanne Simard

Suzanne Simard is a professor of forest ecology and teaches at the University of British Columbia. She has tested theories about how trees communicate with other trees. She used radioactive carbon to measure the flow and sharing of carbon between individual trees and species. She discovered 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.

Suzanne Simard

Suzanne Simard helped identify 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.

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 coöperative underground economy appears to be better over-all health, more total photosynthesis, and greater resilience in the face of disturbance".

Ivo Valkenburg

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