A length of steel pipe and a heart monitor are the unlikely tools underpinning new research which suggests that trees may work together to form resource-sharing networks, helping the group collectively overcome environmental challenges.
The findings, laid out in a paper published today in Communications Biology, offer fresh insight into how forests around the world might adapt to the increasing environmental stresses of climate change.
Researchers from universities in the UK, Germany, France and Mexico partnered on the project, which investigated how mangrove trees form networks of root grafts in a Mexican coastal lagoon.
Root grafts are physical connections between tree roots which can allow them to exchange water, carbon and mineral nutrients. Trees with less access to sunlight have been shown in previous studies to survive by sharing resources supplied from root grafts with better positioned neighbouring trees. Very little research has been conducted into resource-sharing in more extensive networks, however, because mapping root grafts between trees requires costly, time-consuming and difficult excavation work.
The research team set out to gain a broader understanding of how root grafts are formed in larger networks of trees in resource-challenged environments. To do so, they studied black mangrove trees, a coastal species which plants shallow roots in soft underwater sediments, in the La Mancha lagoon, in the Veracruz region of Mexico.
Posted On: 05/05/2021