• Sarah Bauer

If A Tree Falls in a Forest...

To be honest, I'm not sure what this is. If anyone knows, please tell me! I think it's a fungus? Anyway.

During a recent photo walk, I saw many interesting mosses, lichens, and fungi. It got me thinking about the small strange plants that we see every day but don't think much about. Forests wouldn't be forests without them, even though they often look like mere decoration.

CuriosityStream has a fascinating documentary on the fungi kingdom (this is not a sponsored blog post, I just like CuriosityStream). Through it I learned that fungi were the first living things to make a home on land. They made the earth habitable for plants, and gave the first plants a leg - or root - up. The symbiotic relationship between plants and fungi is the reason we have such complex life on Earth today.

Fungi still play an important role in the growth of forests. Their complex rootlike system connects with the roots of trees. The trees exchange nutrients and information with the fungi and with each other like a system of roads... or like the Internet. Many scientists even call this system the Wood Wide Web.

Before we knew this, humans have always had a sense that nature is interconnected. This belief is present in most major religions. Different species may be focused on their own survival in the long run, but in order for them to survive they must depend on other species. I don't just mean this in the sense that deer eat grass, then bears eat deer. Symbiotic relationships exist everywhere throughout all levels of life.

Lichen are a symbiotic combination of algae and cyanobacteria that together make one organism. Our bodies contain more bacteria and microorganisms than cells. Cleaner wrasse, a type of fish, have evolved specifically to eat dead skin cells and parasites off of other fish. They even get along with sharks.

If something goes wrong with any one of these species, the effect is felt by the whole ecosystem. The Wood Wide Web that lies beneath the surface of every forest on Earth means that trees from across the forest can communicate with each other. Even if they seem independent on the surface, they still rely on their neighbors to grow strong. Our World Wide Web is a similar system. With it, people support each other, sending information and even resources through a hidden network. Even though the Internet seems like the most unnatural thing humans have created, it still has its roots - pun somewhat intended - in the natural world.

Survival of the fittest has never meant that only the strongest or smartest of the species survive. In nature, it's one's ability to adapt that is most important. Often, the best way to do that is to give and receive help from those around you.

If a tree falls in a forest, the entire forest hears it.

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