Are ‘mother trees’ real? Evidence of this fairy tale-like effect is sparse

By Zayna Syed
Popular Science
July 10, 2023
Category: Forestry
Region: Canada, Canada West

In the forests of BC a series of studies from the past 30 years contends that large, old trees send resources and messages to the seedlings around them. The “mothering” can, hypothetically, help burned landscapes recover faster, boost the amount of carbon dioxide stores in soil, and improve the resiliency of natural systems overall. The idea seems to borrow from bedtime tales about ancient trees and the enchanted forests they foster. …But two papers have recently called into question the evidence. …A paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution in February reviewed 26 studies that look at the ability of underground fungal networks to transfer resources and if mother trees send resources to young plants. …Justine Karst, a professor at the University of Alberta… “This sort of popularized idea of their role and how they work with these fungi as these passive conduits in the soil doing things under the direction of trees, there’s just not really evidence for that.”

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