Wood Wide Web. Nature talking.

Posted on: September 9th, 2019 by Pablo Herrera

Costa Rica is well-known for vast biodiversity. This eco-rich flora and fauna is the main attraction for many of the travelers making the journey to reconnect with nature.  Trees are home to howlers, sloths, frogs, and birds to name only a few popular stars of the forest trekking tours.

In Costa Rica a tree might be part of one’s mailing address.  These noted landmarks don’t move or change much, unless they fall of course.  One tall Higueron tree standing on the corner of our property lost its partner Higueron during heavy rainfall in June. Removing the fallen trunk and branches  was an arduous and sad task for our grounds crew.  Yet, we have faith that the stump and roots still contain life and may be communicating with the corner tree.  New discoveries about trees’ room systems, a hot topic around the world these days, reveal how trees communicate and develop friendly communities.  Peter Wohlleben, in The Hidden Life of Trees,  has shared much of what he learned while working as a forester. He explains these mysterious and scientific processes and begins his book recounting the discovery of an old tree stump showing signs of life.  Only with the help from trees nearby sending nutrients to the stump through root systems, could the stump live so many years without the tree trunk and crown intact.

Trees help each other in many ways.  Mother trees drop seeds that spring forth saplings.  They then protect the growing trees for hundreds of years.  Trees, even different species, are capable of sending warnings to each other through the roots.  They use webs of fungi to alert fellow trees when predators or other dangers are present.  Trees also support neighboring species who are ill by sending nutrients to them.  Dr. Suzanne Simard’s studies (the University of British Columbia, Vancouver)  have become commonly referred to as the Wood Wide Web.  Looking much like internet connections, roots from trees, or in our case trees near a stump, are grafted underground and surrounded by millions of kilometers of Hyphae that form throughout the trees growing and dying cycles.  A tree in a forest with this underground support is, in most cases, stronger than a tree that stands alone.

The latest research published in iScience Leuzinger and Bader (July 25, 2019) has further shifted this perception of trees as individuals towards understanding forest ecosystems as “superorganisms.” Again, the article starts with detail related to how an ancient stump was alive in the forest because it was receiving water and nutrients from the surrounding trees.  This stump and its roots give stability to the forest.  Keeping the stump alive increases their chances of not becoming a stump themselves.

We are learning more; and the more we learn, the more we love our trees.  While we are collecting our data on the 100 plus trees on our property, Manuel and Franco are now creating a tree list and corresponding tree map.  Even a short walk from your room to the restaurant is tree lined,  and on a longer walk, we have bush trails for guests to wander and enjoy viewing and learning about our trees. Villa San Ignacio is a small hotel with 18 rooms situated on a property with more than 3 acres of mostly wooded green areas.  – PH

Sloth