The Earth's Internet: How Fungi Help Plants Communicate - Lake Harding Association

The Earth’s Internet: How Fungi Help Plants Communicate

The Earth’s Internet: How Fungi Help Plants Communicate

By Micah Moen 100 Comments August 13, 2019


The internet connects more than half of the
world’s population through an invisible web of servers, computers,
and devices. It has changed our lives in countless ways by allowing otherwise separated people to
interact and by providing access to vast amounts of
information. But humans aren’t the only organisms on
the planet with an invisible interconnected network. While plants might seem like isolated, solitary
individuals, they’re capable of communicating with each
other, sometimes over considerable distances, all thanks to their special relationship with
fungi. Nearly all plant species we know of have a
mutually beneficial relationship with soil fungi called mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae grow a network of small, branching
tubes, called a mycelium, that extends throughout the soil, including
inside of or around plant roots. And these allow the fungi to absorb nutrients
from the soil, like nitrogen and phosphorus, which plants
struggle to extract. So they basically barter: in exchange for
those hard-to-get nutrients, the plants trade the fungi carbon in the form
of sugars. And ultimately, together, both can thrive
when they otherwise wouldn’t. This symbiotic relationship between plants
and fungi was discovered in the early 1900s, but it
wasn’t until 1997 that we understood just how deep this underground
network goes. Ecologist Suzanne Simard had a hunch that plants weren’t just sharing nutrients
with fungi, but also with each other. To test her hypothesis, she and her colleagues infused trees in a
forest with a traceable, radioactive form of carbon, and later took samples from neighboring trees. And it turned out many nearby trees had the
radioactive carbon, too, proving that plants could send nutrients back
and forth to one another. Not only that, they seemingly distributed the nutrients where
they were needed most. Plants need light energy to turn carbon dioxide
and water into sugar and oxygen thanks to that magical process called photosynthesis. So those in shade have less sugar to go around. Simard found that these shaded, energy-deficient
trees ended up with more of the radioactive carbon than their sunbathing counterparts. So it’s basically the plant-fungi equivalent
of feeding the hungry. Continued research into these underground
networks, called Common Mycelium Networks, has revealed that plants are not only able
to gain access to more nutrients, they can also engage in sophisticated communication by “talking” chemically through mycelia. And, it turns out, they’re saying quite
a bit! Generally, any seedling that’s plugged into
the Common Mycelium Network, or CMN, has a higher likelihood of surviving. And plants that are “online” are generally
healthier, too. Researchers think this has to do with having
access to an early warning system. When a plant is attacked, it releases chemicals that tell nearby plants something bad is coming
their way. This communication happens with airborne compounds, but also through a CMN. And other plants heed this warning. For example, when tomato plants are connected
by a CMN, and one plant is attacked by a pest, nearby plants will activate their defenses
before the pest reaches them. Scientists are only just starting to understand how important these plant networks are. They’ve discovered that entire forests can
be interconnected, but like with our internet, connectivity throughout an ecosystem isn’t
evenly distributed. Older, larger trees are more connected, kind of like some servers in the human internet. These highly connected trees are called hub
or mother trees. They have big root networks that host a greater
diversity of mycorrhizal fungi, and that allows them to interact with a lot
of other plants. They do play favorites, though… Scientists have shown they can send ‘care
packages’ of extra nutrients to their kin to help them survive, which is
how they got the mommy moniker. And they also can help forests transition
during times of change. When they’re injured or dying, they release
a surge of carbon into the network which nurtures the next generation
of trees, even if they’re a different species. Of course, no internet is complete without
hackers. Some plants can claim territory and influence
community dynamics by sending toxins into the CMN. Black Walnuts will use these networks to release toxins into the soil, for example. Those that are immune to the toxins thrive,
while others struggle or die off. And harmful worms, parasitic plants, and fungi can find their way to the plants they target
by following chemical trails emitted by the mycorrhizae underground. It’s amazing to think that this chemical
information superhighway was right below our noses for eons and yet
we had no clue. But now that we can finally plug in, it might
just help us connect with the planet’s flora in much more constructive
ways. Knowledge of this interconnectivity is helping
improve our relationship to plants, including things like forest conservation
and agriculture. For example, preserving the highly connected
mother trees from deforestation ensures mycorrhizal fungal diversity, and helps forest regrowth happen more quickly. And farming in soil with a CMN means plants
can warn each other of invading pests, which may reduce the need
for pesticides. Like with the human internet, the internet
of the earth increases security, awareness, and knowledge for those connected
to it—including us. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow! If you liked learning about plant symbiotic
relationships, you might like our episode on how plants recruit
bodyguards.

100 Comments found

User

jelaninoel

She reminds me of Hob Goblin from Spiderman

Reply
User

UFBMusic

It sounds like the electric grid, with trees dumping power when they overproduce

Reply
User

ImaginaryMdA

Can we please accelerate the evolution of this information highway, to the point of sentient trees? 😀

Reply
User

Bloodcyclon

Who said "Avatar"?

Reply
User

sogerc1

0:06 What do you mean invisible?! If I look out my window on the pole I can see the fiber optic cable that brings the internet to the people in the street, it's neatly labeled by my ISP.

Reply
User

Jim Ramirez

Do insects tap into this network? I've always had a feeling mosquitoes were a forrest's army…

Reply
User

Kristi Marie

Ohhhh, so that's how the U.S.S. Discovery travels so fast. Sounds dumb when I say it out loud.

Reply
User

Ginny Jolly

Mycorrhizae can also police their network. There are mycelia that form nooses from specific cells, and these nooses have their mechanisms to trap and squeeze nematodes.

Reply
User

Thomas Tew

2018: I bet there will be flying cars in the future
2069: I can now talk to plants

Reply
User

Arick Hauschild

Somebody's getting their SAT scores canceled lol

Reply
User

MultiMaikimaik

once we master that, we have officially passed the margin to be called GODS, right?

Reply
User

Zhu Bajie

Sounds like Avatar.

Reply
User

Bleed The Machines

your uptalk is abhorrant ma'am.

Reply
User

BiggsN15

Amazing. I watch and thoroughly enjoy all your channels and content with my Fiance and kids. We learn amazing things every day. We watch the videos, then discuss them as we eat dinner. So we want thank you guys for creating such interesting programmes. Keep up the good work guys 👍

Reply
User

PBNkapamilya

[insert CMN fake news media joke here]

Reply
User

Fraser Henderson

I think our pre-civilization ancestors, living in the forests and plains, probably understood there was a connection between plants and trees in a local area. Tree worship may be partly a result of close observation of natural processes.

Reply
User

freeman account

Severs are invisible? Must make it difficult for the admins..

Reply
User

tawon1984

So Avatar's Tree was spot on 👍

Reply
User

Mikes Science

How does a plant know if it’s helping it’s kin?

Reply
User

time

This is so badass. Ive been getting sick of the internet, maybe ill take a break and surf the plant web! Ha!

Reply
User

Chandler Russell

The internet is the greatest achievement of humanity. Change my mind.

Reply
User

Federico Jimbo Smithson

Avatar film anyone?

Reply
User

Moses Jonson

Bruh what happened to Hank and Justin man🤔

Reply
User

Dillon Vaughan

Why do dogs howl when they hear sirens?

Reply
User

Erick Eggert

Am I the only one who thought of the movie Avatar?

Reply
User

Nmethyltransferase

What the hell have you people been smoking out there?

Reply
User

Daniel Stevens

It's amazing how all a plant needs is a bit of water and sunlight to produce food. There ain't many species capable of doing that.

Reply
User

ziqi92

Plants know that resource redistribution is essential for a healthy ecosystem. Wish humans did the same.

Reply
User

Chris P Bacon

So that means plants invented the Internet waaaay before humans did.

Reply
User

Pradip Kumar Gupta

Hey she looks like the upgraded version of Amy from The Big Bang Theory…😅

Reply
User

Raymond Lo

AVATAR!!!

Reply
User

awais ahmed

We are groot

Reply
User

shismohammad mulla

Online 😂😆

Reply
User

MrWombatty

So one reason plants in pots don't survive is that they could be feeling lonely & disconnected!

Reply
User

batmanfanforever08

Well that was interesting.

Reply
User

Ivan Etcuban

I had the unfortunate experience of choosing this video for beginner stenography practice in 0.25 speed.

Reply
User

spectrumbots42

It's really cool to know about this stuff.

Reply
User

Gregory Thompson

It sounds like i'm hearing the cadence from the first sentence over and over and over lol…(a.k.a. sounds monotone) It looks to be a consequence of doing so many cuts without paying any attention to the flow between cuts

Reply
User

Lokitty Laufeyson

Are there cats in this one as well?

Reply
User

Ab Xarbi

Do plants need IP address to communicate with each other?

Reply
User

Cambesa

Avatar was right!

Reply
User

Tal Adiv

Very interesting!

Reply
User

Thomas Guzon

Prototaxites Stellaviatori anyone?

Reply
User

Tho H. Ho

plants buy stuff on cmn://amazon.com

Reply
User

Ry Bohm

shrroooooooooommmmmmsssssss

Reply
User

Tissue Cat

The nutrients are distributed where they're needed most? Are you telling me these trees are communists? Those damn red(wood)s!

Reply
User

Euphoria Systems

Servers are computers.

Reply
User

fartzinwind

Invisible? I've worked a multiple internet service providers of multiple types, it's very visible.

Reply
User

Largo Di Milano

Agrarian socialism FTW – Alexander Herzen is redeemed at last

Reply
User

gs8777

Even plants understand that you have to help each other out. Yet here we are, arguing over whether or not its a good idea to have Universal Healthcare and a living wage. lol

Reply
User

Joseph Fuller

It is great that this understanding is starting to become more mainstream. However, it is far from new. Some native american tribe on the east coast, perhaps elsewhere too, were aware of this well before the 19th century. They lacked the scientific terms and experimental data to prove their beliefs. It seems that there data was more experiential and observational than anything else.

Reply
User

Ruby Moon

ohh now i know why The Grand Oak rhythm —-> he wants to connect ….. dam it dragon age origins mess up my head

Reply
User

minj4ever

AKA Weirwoodnet

Or Pequenino fathertrees.

Sometimes nature is stranger than fiction.

Reply
User

BrownBricks

Isn’t the Internet the earth’s internet?

Reply
User

Zeed

They may have a internet like ours, But do they have memes like ours?

Reply
User

Naomi L

Ah yes I remember this from the ACT

Reply
User

Dag-Are Halland

Old news

Reply
User

Oshe Shango

Girllllll…. you got the moves!

Reply
User

odiousominious

So, even Plants have Socialism.

Reply
User

trbjrnjnssn

I would say photosynthesis is about as magical as magnets.

Reply
User

Karyuu

Plants, Fungi, Humans…

Later bacteria and other animals will have internet😂😂 too

Reply
User

Felipe Carvalho

sooo… the amazon fourchan is now cooking the new human-defense polen? like in that shayamalan movie?

Reply
User

Exceptional Perception

Psssst psssst "Hey! Hey! You got any Nitro' or even some Phos' bro…"

Reply
User

Barbara Jones

better if you will create a tutorial video, but anyway this simply worked
good one!

Reply
User

TheOriginalMakaaka

Wouldn't it be interesting if there is a greater awareness that we can all connect to and you can share and obtain knowledge from it. Wouldn't it be interesting if Cannabis was the key to doing this. Wouldn't it be interesting if you can get information, years before the mainstream scientists discover it – only to have a Computer with built-in security flaws in the CPU so the monopoly-men can steal your intellectual property and claim it as their own. Wouldn't it be interesting if people realized we are all part of this greater awareness and thereby literally connected to each other; thereby it making sense to treat your neighbor as if they were yourself. Wouldn't it be interesting if the everything in this comment was based on reality.

Reply
User

Kelly Corless

anyone remember this from the PSAT a couple years ago?

Reply
User

kaleb Crossley

She sucks get rid of her

Reply
User

Lucretius

So the Upside Down in stranger things is actually the dark web.

Reply
User

HardDie

Another phenomenal reason why HUMANS are Soooo unneeded on this beautiful Earth

Reply
User

Marco Custódio

Couldn't the marked carbon isotope have been transfered from one tree to the other by aboveground processes?

Reply
User

CobalticChaos

Avatar was right

Reply
User

supersonicrocks100

wasnt this an SAT question

Reply
User

William Parker

Oh no… The movie "The Happening", will happen some day. Humans are so screwed.

Reply
User

Nica Andrei

What if we can use the chemical impulses betwen plants and convert them to some kind of data? It sounds pretty sci-fi but we did it with dna… we would be able to actualy comunicate with plants, I wonder what my marijuana says about me…

Reply
User

Michael Dean

The idea of plants defending themselves used to be called mulching, now we call it permaculture. Then, companies like Monsanto brainwashed growers into being addicted to petroleum based fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Any conversation about “How Fungi Help Plants Communicate” is not complete when you leave out the notion that SciShow and SciShow patrons, through their silence and complacency, allow greedy, soulless corporations to do these things.

Reply
User

victoria man

Much better question… how did all millennial woman independently and sporadically develop vocal fry's?

Please solve this question SciShow

Reply
User

Fred Ivory

Why do BLACK WALNUTS hafta be the trouble makers.

Reply
User

Hentai Commander

Stick to these instead of always downplaying natural beneficial remedies and lifestyles, Debbie Downer

Reply
User

dojokonojo

Since the network is made of mycelium, when can we use them to travel across space?

Reply
User

theRealRindberg

Avatar anyone!?

Reply
User

Draken X

Goes to show you how much advance nature is in relation to human's technological advancements.

I do love technology in general, though I find nature more fascinating. If only we had the code to interact with nature… Kind of reminds me of Jame Cameron's Avatar.

Not only understanding plants but other animals and learn from them as well.

Reply
User

Patrick Williams

What? No Avatar reference.

Reply
User

Kyaw Thura Maung

Great

Reply
User

Morgan

I came here expecting loads of people to say "it's not communication, it's passive and chemically "programmed" into them" and such which I kind of feel too, but woah internet, all the comments are pretty hilarious. Yay humans!

Reply
User

Ballardian

Why has this video received over 250 downvotes?

Reply
User

Timothy Espinosa

This is so interesting!! Also, great host!

Reply
User

That French Fry

So plants have pornhub too?

Reply
User

ERA CASTE

Is there something wrong with her voice? It always rasps off hoarsely at the end.

Reply
User

YAHWEH 2 HOLYGHOST

This is "natural military"

Reply
User

Geoffrey Rothwell

The internet is not invisible! And it uses lots and lots of electricity!

Reply
User

James Ryzlot

maybe wipe your nose to encourage credibility ?

JR

Reply
User

Ivory Mantis

So I take it that means the Druids back in the day were actually correct with having sacred trees?

Reply
User

Luke Wilkinson

Um most farmers have know this for years…Scientist are the ones slacking.

Reply
User

RaiseTheSpirit

Ive been saying this to my friends for about 8 years and half the time they think I'm crazy. Now science is backing me up. Much of nature becoms more understanding to me with each magic mushroom trip I do.

Reply
User

Harry Price

amazing

Reply
User

Cyrus Clarke

"this was right beneath our noses for eons, but we had no clue"

so actually this knowledge and many other "secrets" of plants and fungi have been well known to (and documented by) many ancient traditions, from shamanic to vedic cultures going back thousands of years. just because it wasn't discovered or known in the west doesn't mean it didn't exist 😊

Reply
User

Shiboline M'Ress

Wow, the mycelial network actually exists! So where's our spore drive?😉

Reply
User

Alex Maunu

Oh god, is this gonna make me a tree hugger…

Reply
User

sebastian stewart

They got the mommy monicor from fantasy, myth and games called the mother tree, great trees that maintain the health of elven lands and prevent corruption to the forest and you just proved that plants attack unsuitable invaders.
We knew of it its from our myths.

Reply
User

MCMLXXXVIII

how fungi

Reply

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *