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Wood-Wide Web: Do Forest Trees Really “Talk” Through Underground Fungi?


Published on: February 16, 2023,

The idea of forests talking is in myths and in fictional books like “Lord of the Rings. The concept is so intriguing and it has taken root in popular media an been dubbed the “wood wide web.” The idea that forests can talk to each other and share resources with their seedling through a connective underground web of delicate fungal filaments tickles the imagination. It is thought that underground fungi known as CMN’s that connect roots of multiple plants can create wood wide web. But the science behind those ideas is unproven, cautions University of Alberta expert Justine Karst.


In a article published by Nature Ecology and Evolution they share personal point of view. “It’s great that CMN research has sparked interest in forest fungi, but it’s important for the public to understand that many popular ideas are ahead of the science,” says Karst, associate professor in the U of A’s Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences. The CMN’S has been scientifically proven to exist there is no evidence they offer benefits to trees and seedlings.


There are three popular claims. First is CMN’s are widespread in forests but it is not supported by scientific evidence. The second claims is that resources such as nutrients are transferred by adult trees to seedlings through CMN and that they boost survival and growth was also found to be questionable. The third claim is that adult trees send resources or warning signals of inspect damage to young trees through CMN’s is not backed by single peer reviewed.


“Distorting science on CMNs in forests is a problem because sound science is critical for making decisions on how forests are managed. It’s premature to base forest practices and policies on CMNs per se, without further evidence. And failing to identify misinformation can erode public trust in science.” Thus word wide web is thought to be mythical.


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