UBC Foresty Professor Suzanne Simard is a forest ecologist whose research focuses on how organisms living in soil – like fungi – help trees establish and grow. Some fungi live inside the roots of trees and form mycorrhizas (literally “fungus-roots”). These fungi help trees acquire nutrients and water from the soil in exchange for carbon.
In 1997, Simard was part of a team of researchers that discovered that trees were connected to one another through an underground web of mycorrhizal fungi. This network allows trees to communicate by transferring carbon, nutrients and water to one another.
Simard also helped identify something called a hub tree, or “Mother Tree.” Mother trees are the largest trees in forests that act as central hubs for vast below ground mycorrhizal networks. They support young trees or seedlings by infecting them with fungi and ferrying them the nutrients they need to grow.