Opinion: Where the ‘Wood-Wide Web’ Narrative Went Wrong

By Melanie Jones, Jason Hoeksema and Justine Karst
Undark Magazine
May 25, 2023
Category: Forestry
Region: Canada, Canada West

Over the past few years, a fascinating narrative about forests and fungi has captured the public imagination. It holds that the roots of neighboring trees can be connected by fungal filaments, forming massive underground networks that can span entire forests — a so-called wood-wide web. …The narrative — recounted in books, podcasts, TV series, documentaries, and news articles — has prompted some experts to rethink not only forest management but the relationships between self-interest and altruism in human society. But is any of it true? We have studied forest fungi for our whole careers, and even we were surprised by some of the more extraordinary claims surfacing in the media. Thinking we had missed something, we thoroughly reviewed 26 field studies… What we found shows how easily confirmation bias, unchecked claims, and credulous news reporting can, over time, distort research findings beyond recognition. It should serve as a cautionary tale for scientists and journalists alike. 

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