There's nothing better than a walk in the countryside for lifting our spirits. Connecting with nature has been proven to help our mental health. For some, the best tonic is to stroll through a forest, but as we admire the trees that surround us, it's worth knowing these trees are doing more than just being nice things to look at.
We're already aware of the healing properties of trees – they produce oxygen and clean the air we breathe by absorbing about a quarter of all human-caused carbon dioxide emissions. Deforestation isn't helping with this which is why so many people want to save them. But there's more to these impressive forms of vegetation than we might think. Researchers have discovered evidence that proves they are actually intelligent.
It's thought that trees talk and share resources right under our feet, using a fungal network. Under the ground are tree roots, and mingling among them, along with bacteria, are thousands of superfine threads of fungi, known as hyphae. And research has shown that they are all interconnected. They can help each other by sharing nutrients, and they can even warn of approaching threats. Scientists say it's like the trees are talking to one another.
Ecologist Suzanne Simard has called this network the Wood Wide Web. She discovered that parent trees use this network to help their offspring. Speaking to the BBC, she said: “We found that the parent trees would favour those seedlings that were of their own kin versus the strangers” by sending them more nutrients. She also found that trees are smart enough to change their behaviour and have managed to adapt and survive in a changing environment.
So it seems trees really are the stars of our natural world, and with around three trillion of them on our planet, it's time to show them some respect if we want them to flourish.