Save The Mother Tree Project
Hi friends. I'm Suzanne Simard, a scientist and a mother. I have contacted you because you have reached out to me about my research -- thank-you. I love forests – not just because they nurture my spirit and saved my life – but because they provide clean air, pure water, biodiversity, and carbon storage. They allow us all to lead healthy lives. I have discovered something cool about forests that could help save them – and us -- from extinction. I have learned there is a way for us to help our forests.
With my grad students, I have discovered that Mother Trees connect with and communicate with other trees and plants in the forest through an invisible underground fungal network. Mother Trees are the biggest, oldest trees in the forest – they are the hubs of an invisible subterranean internet – through which they transmit nutrients, water and defense signals to other trees, especially when the neighbors are in need. Mother trees send carbon to seedlings in her shadow. Deep-rooted Mother Trees pull up water from aquifers and transmit it to shallow rooted seedlings and shrubs. Deciduous Mother Trees send nitrogen to conifers. Injured Mother Trees send warning signals to neighbours when there is danger. A Mother Tree recognizes which neighbors are kin, and can either favour or discourage them by shuttling carbon in different directions and amounts through the fungal internet. These discoveries are upending our long-held notions of forests – from battle grounds of trees competing for resources -- to social communities built on cooperative relationships.
These old notions - of forests as a bank of disconnected, competing objects – are killing us. Hand-in-hand with this thinking, we have objectified and commodified forests as though there is no consequence of ever-increasing rates of clearcutting, spraying of pesticides to kill unwanted plants, insects and microbes, and planting of weedy tree species. But there are deadly consequences to these practices. These include huge pulses of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, changes in hydrological cycles, losses of biodiversity, loss of productivity, to name of few.
But I believe our discovery – that forests are social interdependent communities, like our own -- can be game-changing in our fight against climate change. Once we understand that forests are connected, communicating and reciprocating -- as though they are sentient and intellingent -- deserving of our respect and needing our care, we can transform our treatment of them. From clearcutting and planting them into biological deserts -- to stewarding them to be more productive, diverse and sustainable. We can do this by conserving Mother Trees in different sized groups for their roles in nurturing and protecting the next generations of forests, just as we do as parents and grandparents raising our children. We can do this by making sure the new generations of regenerating seedlings are well adapted to the changing climate and that they have the help of a diverse suite of neighbors, symbionts, pollinators, seed dispersers, etc.
But I need your help. Based on our discoveries, I have started a large, comprehensive experiment – called The Mother Tree Project – to figure out how to design innovative forestry practices so our future forests are resilient and productive as climate changes. To connect people with forests to re-learn that 'we are one'. So that our forests don’t die from drought or burn down or get chewed up by insects as global temperatures rise. The experiment includes a network 30 of forests across western Canada and is a collaborative effort with First Nations, government and industry. We are testing a wide range of harvesting and regeneration practices to nurture forests for the future. This experiment is partially funded by NSERC, but we lost a large portion of our funding due to institutional errors. To make matters worse, our old research truck finally gave up the ghost and has left us without transportation to our research forests. My students and I are ready to go with The Mother Tree Project, but we have no wheels. Only an old VW van and our bicycles.
You can help us with The Mother Tree Project by donating toward the purchase of a research truck. The truck has to be big, sturdy and reliable enough to transport me and my crew of graduate and undergraduate students to our remote research sites scattered up and down British Columbia. For your donation, we will plant a seedling next to one of our Mother Trees in your name. Planting will occur in the spring of 2018. You can come visit your tree as it grows. You can be part of this amazing research network. I will post regular updates on the project. I really need and appreciate your help.
Thanks so much, Suzanne. Please spread the word, post on your facebook pages.