Nature,  science

Do trees “talk” like we do?

Communication is an essential element that is deeply connected with human existence. Man cannot live without communication. Communication helps to build relationships with others, to express ideas, and to build trust. With the evolution of man, man sought to develop his own means of communication as well, recognizing communication as a basic need as much as food and water. Despite the travel restrictions imposed by this global epidemic, we have been able to manage day-to-day activities in a positive manner because of the development of communication technology.

We can constantly experience the variety of communication that takes place not only between humans but also among other members of the animal kingdom. Voice-raising, tail-like, gnashing of teeth, etc. are some of the animal’s means of communication. But animals are not the only organisms that can communicate. Plants are also a division of organisms that are efficient at exchanging information and exchanging resources. But they happen on a subtle level that is invisible and invisible to our eyes. Their communication is also a technology that has been developed in a certain way. We are preparing to bring you information on several methods of plant communication.

Can plants be warned?

Survival of the fittest is one of the most basic evolutionary knowledge of any animal. Plants also have this feeling. They can not only warn them but also ask someone to help them escape. But in plants this communication takes place chemically.

Just imagine, you are mowing the lawn in the garden. Have you ever experienced an odor when some grass or weeds are cut? This means that some volatile chemical compound is released by these plants. Perhaps this volatile chemical compound was a warning of the danger to the plant. For example, a species of tobacco growing in the wild can detect a caterpillar that infects itself. When the caterpillar’s droplet gets stuck on the plant or causes tissue damage, the plant releases a volatile chemical compound into the air. In a short time, the insects attracted to the chemical fly to the plant and carry the caterpillars’ death warrant. This tobacco plant protects itself and its mates by releasing a chemical against the caterpillars that come to harm them and attracting caterpillar predators.

Also, plants may react differently in response to this warning. These are the protective measures taken by other plants in response to the signal emitted by the damaged plant. For example, botanists have made a remarkable observation about a sagebrush called sagebrush. When a sagebrush is damaged by a caterpillar or worm-like pest, the plant produces a protective chemical called trypsin proteinase inhibitors (TPIs). These proteins slow down the protein digestion of the aforementioned pests, which in turn impairs their growth. The most beautiful thing is that the volatile chemical released by the sagebrush warns the other sagebrush plants around them of protection as well. Accordingly, those plants also prepare in advance for an impending danger.

Communication can also be to their advantage

This is linked to the process of allelopathy (the process by which plants produce biochemicals for growth, reproduction, and defense) and the competition between them. Some plant species produce special chemicals to isolate territory and to exclude other species from their lands. By releasing these toxic chemical compounds, those plants can prevent the growth of their competitors. Many invasive plant species use this method to propagate around the world, capturing native environments. For example, the invasive plant hyacinth (Japanese ginseng) originated in South America and has spread to all continents except Antarctica.

However, there are times when some plants are able to fight back and survive. An example is the secretion of oxalic acid from the roots of the lupine plant, which acts as a protective barrier against toxins produced by the invasive plant Napweed. The lupine’s aggressiveness protects it from other invasive species.

Is there a mechanism by which plants can identify their relatives?

Plants also become aware of other plants around them. That understanding is important to them, such as competing for resources, being aware of when there is not enough sunlight, and getting information about dangers. Research shows that plants, like animals, recognize their relatives and interact with the same species for survival. Unlike animals, we still have little understanding of the kinship of the plant world, but various studies have gathered information on how it occurs.

One study found that plants such as soybeans and sea urchins were less likely to coexist with alien species in their natural environment and prefer to grow close to members of their own species. Further studies have shown that Sea Rocket plants have limited root growth when grown in the same pot, and when another alien species is allowed to grow in the same pot with the same plant, they grow well to compete well with other species. Scientists suspect that this identification is also a chemical communication process.

However, the ability of plants to identify their relatives is still being tested, and some argue that plants do not have such advanced communication skills. But many subject matter scientists are still studying this intriguing fact.
The invisible communication network, the “root of the fungus”

Of all the plant communication methods, the most amazing is the communication that takes place through the root of this fungus. In fact, it’s like a sophisticated network of communications that spans as much as the live Internet. It is important to understand what a fungal root is before going into further details on this.

A fungal root is a symbiotic relationship between a species of fungus and the root system of a plant. The fungus that participates in the symbiotic relationship grows in the roots or on the surface of the plant and contributes to the formation of the fungal root system. This coexistence relationship benefits both parties. There, the fungus facilitates the plant to obtain water and various nutrients, while the plant provides the fungus with food and nutrients produced by photosynthesis. Due to the nutrient cycles created by this exchange, this fungal root becomes an important factor in the evolution and structural development of plants as well.

Often the visible part of a fungus is the reproductive part of the fungus. This reproductive part is what we call “mushrooms”. But we must remember that not all fungi make mushrooms. If we look back at the soil around these seven, we can observe a network of fine fibers. This fine-grained network is called a mycelium. Mycelium of a fungus can sometimes grow much better in the soil than the root system of a tree. So this vast network of fungi connects with the plant roots and spreads to the root system of adjacent plants, like in a forest, eventually forming a vast network.

It has been observed that the old trees in the forest have a better relationship with this fungus. The roots of those ancient plants extend relatively deep into the soil, making it easier to reach water sources. There is no shortage of nutrients due to the well-established fungal root correlation. It has been observed that these adult plants send water to the younger plants through fungi associated with this root system. The fungal root system also uses these adult plants to identify the less healthy plants around them by the distress signals they send and to release the nutrients they need.

Fungal root networks are very complex and are often constructed to include not only multicellular but also multicellular species. Research is currently underway on the ability of different fungi to interact, depending on the type of fungus involved. Researchers have shown that these networks allow for the exchange of nutrients between plants.

Professor David Johnson, once a microbiologist at the University of Manchester, wanted to see if these fungal root networks could be used to send early warnings. Accordingly, he introduced aphids to a particular plant, and then described how the neighboring plants reacted.

“We found that when the aphids attack their neighbors, the surrounding plant community responds similarly. But that response only comes when the root systems of those plants are connected to these common microbial fungal networks. ”

Accordingly, the working factors behind this wonderful symbiotic relationship are expanding day by day. Because of the way plants communicate with each other, there is nothing wrong with treating the ecosystem in which they live as a single supernatural being that all inhabit with each other.

Maybe you too have wandered in the jungles like Sinharaja and Kanneliya. Such a forest can also be considered as a wonderful communication network within the ecosystem. With each step we take, in that earth and space, plants may be communicating with each other in many different ways. It is very likely that the part we have yet to uncover from that exchange of information is very small.

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