Tree Stumps Are A Tree’s Best Friend: Natural Superorganisms

Tree Stumps Are A Tree’s Best Friend_ Natural Superorganisms

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Nature is full of surprises.

Every year scientists find out tons of new species, bizarre characteristics, and a lot more.

It is always interesting how the world works, and nature keeps itself alive. It does not need a caretaker and is self-sufficient.

The biggest example of this can be seen in today’s time. After many countries enforced lockdown due to the spread of COVID-19, the nature around them started healing itself. Since people were asked to stay indoors, factories were closed, there were fewer cars on the road, all of it contributed greatly to the healing of nature and greener living.

Nature took this opportunity and caught a fresh breath of air.

Air pollution came down along with other miraculous changes. Since nature is a miracle in its self, there are other miracles we get to see in nature. One of such miracles is when a tree stump despite being cut off, stays alive with the help of its friends. Friends? Are you confused? Don’t worry, we were too!

Dead or Alive?

Dead or Alive - Natural SuperorganismUnderstandably, a tree stump won’t be able to survive on its own. How could it, when it has no leaves to make the food and keep it alive. It most definitely can!

Two researchers in New Zealand came across a tree stump that defied all logic and stayed alive despite being barren. The two researchers, Sebastian Leuzinger and Martin Bader were out hiking when they came across a Kauri tree stump. The tree stump had no branches or leaves whatsoever. However, it was alive. This intrigued the researchers and they conducted an entire study on the tree stump with hopes to find out what kept it alive.

Upon closer inspection, they found out that the tree stump was producing resin which was a clear indication that it had living tissues and were able to produce resin. Luckily, the researchers were both ecologists and concluded that the tree was not alive on its own but was kept alive by the surrounding trees. But how? Let’s find out.

The Science Behind It

The Science Behind It - Natural SuperorganismThe science of it all is quite shocking, as we all know that tall trees are deep-rooted.

The Kauri trees can be as tall as 40 to 50 meters, therefore their roots are spread around holding the ground firmly. The researchers knew that trees are connected at the root level with symbiotic soil fungi and can exchange the necessary nutrients.

What’s more interesting is that some of these trees of the same species join together as one. They fuse their roots and can absorb nutrition simultaneously.

A Shocking Discovery:

A Shocking Discovery for tree - Natural Superorganism

This can go to great extents where a large number of trees come together as one at the root level.

This was a basic understanding of what was happening, but the two researchers decided to dig deeper and find out more information. They checked the flow of water in the tree stump and the surrounding trees. They found out that when the sun was out and it was a sunny day, the neighboring tree transpired. It took in the water while at the same time, the stump didn’t. This was shocking.

Further in the research, they found out that when it rained or at night, the stump took in the water while the tree didn’t. This was a strange breakthrough. It seemed as if both the trees had come to an agreement and decided to take turns to absorb water.

What confused the researchers now was, why bother at all?

A tree stump cannot produce food, it cannot revive then why are the surrounding trees keeping it alive?

There could be a reason for this. It is possible that prior to becoming a stump, the healthy tree fused its roots with the surrounding trees and can reap the benefits of the fusion now. Quite literally! Ecologists do not have the answers as to why trees graft their roots together but this was not the first time such a case was reported.

In 1833 a similar case was reported however for a different species of tree. It was a European silver fir. Since then there have been several cases reported but what’s still intriguing is what makes this possible. If we were to think that it was a mutual agreement, the evidence does not support it. For example, it is understandable why the tree stump would want to gain benefits from this arrangement, but what’s in it for the surrounding trees? It is as if they are carrying dead weight.

A Give And Take:

A Give And Take tree - Natural Superorganism

Scientists may have the answer to that. Seems so that there is something in it for the healthy trees. All you have to do is look below the surface, literally. Trees need stability to grow on sloped land, roots can provide that stability. The stump might not have the exterior tree but it still has deep roots. It can help other trees hold their ground and be as stable as possible. Seemingly, it is a ‘give and take’.

Upon further study, it has been found that during drought seasons, this community of trees keep each other up and running by exchanging water and other nutrients.

This sounds like a great connection but sometimes it can do more harm than good. The Kauri tree faces a disease by the name, Dieback. If the roots are interlinked, the chances are that one tree can catch this disease from the other, therefore impacting the whole community.

Uncovering the Mysteries of Tree Life in the Future

Uncovering the Mysteries of Tree Life in the Future - Natural SuperorganismResearchers have a lot of research left to do as the preconceived notion of a tree being an individual seems wrong given such cases. They might need to reconsider trees as a superorganism and conduct their research accordingly.

If you are a student of ecology, you may see such bizarre yet interesting cases in your online ecology classes. If you feel that you are not up to the task and are forced to take ecology as an elective, you can ask an expert for dissertation help. Just make sure you choose the right experts!

Author’s Bio

Faith Coles is an ecologist who has completed her degree from the top school in the country. Now, she has decided to help struggling students with their online classes and to provide them with the expert help they need. She is very articulate and has a large expanse of knowledge on the subject. Many students have benefited from her help.


About Green Living Reporter 26 Articles
Always on the hunt for the latest green living news, tips and stories, proudly sharing them with readers all around the world to make this planet a better place.

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