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Author Topic: How do trees communicate?  (Read 2620 times)

Jenny Adcock

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How do trees communicate?
« on: 29/09/2009 14:30:03 »
Jenny Adcock asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Rural West Berkshire, very slow internet therefore have to wait patiently every week for my favourite podcast of your brilliant programme.

Hope you've all had good and well deserved hols, missed you live but enjoyed "best bits."

I have read that trees can communicate (a warning?)with others of same species by releasing a chemical signal. What is it and how does it work? Would it be down wind only?

What do you think?


 

Offline JnA

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How do trees communicate?
« Reply #1 on: 29/09/2009 14:58:32 »
That's fascinating. I had not heard about this but, if true, quite amazing.
As a speculation, perhaps they use a 'messenger' from the flying insect world....
 

Offline Don_1

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How do trees communicate?
« Reply #2 on: 29/09/2009 16:33:23 »
I should not be surprised if plants can 'communicate' with each other to some degree. But perhaps the word is missleading. It is possible that a plant under attack from an insect, or parasite, maybe even a grazing animal, could release toxins into it's leaves, or whichever part is under attack, to make the plant taste bad. The release of any such chemicals would doubtless result in some evaporating and being carried by the wind and possibly by the invading insect itself to other nearby plants. The presence of such chemicals could trigger those plants to manufacture the same defence, in advance of any attack.
 

Offline Don_1

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How do trees communicate?
« Reply #3 on: 30/09/2009 07:58:59 »
The only other form of communication I can think of is that trees might bark.  ;D

Or make a trunk call.
 

Offline Kupac

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How do trees communicate?
« Reply #4 on: 03/10/2009 17:01:13 »
I agree with Don1. The word "communication" is very misleading. Animals communicate with each other if such communication is beneficial for both parties, and therefore both of them actively take part. Otherwise it is basically the detection of the other party's state by means of chemical receptors, and reacting to it.

An example of such communication are some Acacia species in the African savannas. They produce the gas ethylene when their leaves are being chewed on, and the neighboring trees start to produce chemicals that make their leaves taste bad (possibly ethylene too, I don't know). If you want to call it communication, you assume that:
a) the neighboring trees are closely related, and it is an altruistic behavior
b) the ethylene-emitting tree benefits from the other tree being able to protect itself
A third possibility is that the production of protective chemicals results in ethylene as a by-product, other trees detect it, and assume that something bad is going on, so they prepare for being eaten.

Because plants often form clonal communities, I assume that there is a lot of of chemical communication going on in those.
 

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How do trees communicate?
« Reply #4 on: 03/10/2009 17:01:13 »

 

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