How forests help preserve life in the ecosystem

(ORDO NEWS) — Forest veterans are there for a reason. Having never retired after many centuries, green centenarians pass on the experience of generations to young animals, help maintain life in the ecosystem, and, along with other inhabitants of the forest, do a lot of interesting things.

In the February issue of Nature Plants, staff from the Morton Arboretum in Laila (USA), the Universities of Tucia (Italy) and Barcelona (Spain) talked about the role that ancient trees play in their forest. It turned out that the presence of such old-timers makes the forest much healthier and more resistant to adversity.

Having survived countless climate changes over the centuries, having recorded the experience of overcoming them in the form of protective mechanisms in their own genetics (for example, the DNA of such old-timers is resistant to many diseases), they pass it on through the seeds of the rest of the forest so that it is more tenacious.

Moreover, for some reason, it is in the company of such aksakals that endangered species prefer to settle, and even veterans absorb much more CO2 than “youth”. Consequently, biologists conclude, cutting down both old and small without looking back, we deprive the forest of this age-old evolutionary connection,

However, through the efforts of a man who named himself with something reasonable, the number of relict forests where long-lived trees are still found is rapidly declining.

— Trees aged 300–500 years (not to mention older ones) are really very few in our country, — says Aleksey Grigoriev, an expert at the Forest Company Social and Ecological Union. “You can search huge areas and not find a single one.

An even bigger problem is to find several of these specimens close to each other, and in fact this is, as a rule, the remnant of an ancient forest that once was here.

Several of these trees create a completely different environment – in terms of humidity, temperature, snow regime, in their presence rare species of plants and microorganisms are better preserved, since many of them require precisely these old, undisturbed conditions.

The conditions that were here until the two-legged descendants of monkeys came and began to develop this territory.

According to our expert, there are no such old forests left in the Moscow region:

– At one time, we seemed to have found one reference area of ​​\u200b\u200buntouched forest, in Podushkinsky forestry, and then I was surprised to learn from archaeologists about several barrow groups of the 13th-15th centuries, that is, this territory was quite residential. However, we have another, absolutely enchanting natural object, which we can be proud of just as Belarusians are proud of their relic forest.

These are the so-called notches – Tula, Kaluga and Ugric (in the region of the Ugra River). During the yoke, when the steppe went to Russia, our ancestors resorted to the help of nature – they began to make serif lines, strips of forest, which were strictly forbidden to cut down, burn, plow and lay roads there.

They felled several rows of trees at the height of human growth, making impassable blockages. Sometimes they could stretch for hundreds of kilometers, allowing either not to let the enemy in at all, or at least buy time.

By the way, during the famous standing on the Ugra, this river was backed up by a notch, that is, even if the Khan’s army crossed over it, it would still be stopped.

Thanks to fairly proper management, several sections of such forests have miraculously survived to our time.

“Inside them, you feel reverence, as in a prayerful temple,” Grigoriev continues. – Inexhaustible oaks go into the sky for more than 30 meters, some unfamiliar grasses grow around, you find yourself in an enchanted world that has existed for thousands of years with little or no human intervention.

And if you don’t touch it, it will stand still for the same amount, because these forests are an absolutely balanced self-supporting system. Although a person, it happens, itches. I remember once an old oak fell in such a forest.

Somehow they buckled it, but the thick tree did not fit into any sawmill. For several days, puffing and cursing, the peasants sawed him lengthwise into two parts, and only after that did they cope with the giant. By the way, you know that Moscow was originally an oak city?

Sometimes you walk around the city and stumble upon some 200-year-old veteran – in the school yard or in the public garden, and it takes your breath away: after all, there was nothing of this, no buildings, no yards, but he was already standing.

I now live in Khimki, there was a fairly decent area of ​​old-growth forest, a unique piece. Well, what was the cost of moving the track 200 meters? So no, they stuck it. And now there is one cow parsnip rushing, as if undermined.

The destruction of centuries-old trees, especially in forests, according to Grigoriev, can deprive us not only of a subject for pride and admiration, but, possibly, of future important discoveries.

“Now we are destroying with great speed even what we do not really know or have not had time to study. Everyone remembers the history of penicillin. Well, who needed these fungi a century and a half ago? And in World War II, they became a strategic thing.

Why do scientists first go to old-growth forests in search of new species? Because it is there, near the veteran trees, that you can find something hitherto unknown – some kind of epiphytes on the bark, new representatives of the microcosm…

And by destroying such trees, we are quite likely destroying someone else’s unique life, which could easily serve people in the future.

We are also destroying life, which can be as intelligent as it is altruistic. For example, according to the observations of the Austrian dendrologist Erwin Thom, trees are much more likely to think about the good of their forest society than about their own.

So, a tree that lacks water signals this to its neighbors, and they slow down its consumption so that everyone has enough moisture.

The German forester Peter Wolleben, who at first treated forest plantations solely as potential material for the nearest sawmill, radically changed his mind when scientists came to his forest. Having learned from them a closer look at the subject, he soon began to notice interesting things himself.

For example, the fact that the altruism of trees can be selective. Usually they stretch their branches until they are in the branches of the neighboring one. It makes no sense to stretch further, since there will not be enough air or light.

But the trees that feel “sympathy” for each other stop already at the nearest approaches to the crown of the “comrade”. The connection of such trees, according to Volleben’s observations, is so strong that sometimes they die together.

And once the forester came across a circle of stones covered with moss. He lifted the moss on one and found that it was not stones, but bark, picked it up and found a greenish layer of cambium – “it” was alive!

Since the “stones” lay in a ring with a diameter of 1.52 meters, Volleben realized that he had stumbled upon the remains of a huge ancient stump – a tree cut down 400–500 years ago continued to live without leaves (and therefore without photosynthesis), receiving everything it needed from its neighbors !

That is, the elder continued to be supported by his fellow tribesmen, despite his injuries – apparently, he was such a valuable member of the community. How? British biologist Susan Simard believes that plants are able to exchange information through a network of symbiotic fungi.

Through it, they feed weakened and young plants, support the diseased and, as a result, create a special ecosystem in which they can generate indicators that are optimal for normal life.

By the way, the mushroom “Internet” is not the only way to transmit intraforest information. Smells, tastes, electrical impulses and even sounds are used. Yes, plants periodically emit ultrasonic signals, and a stressful situation directly affects their intensity and volume – greenery literally screams that something bad is happening.

And everyone who hears this not only broadcasts the signal further, but also takes action against the adversary. For example, if the leaves begin to gnaw or snap off, many plants send unpleasant-tasting substances to the disaster area.

There are cases when, because of this SOS radio, entire herds of ungulates died out, especially in conditions of close monoplants – it seems that there is a lot of greenery around, but it is impossible to eat.

The talkativeness of plants was discovered in 1959 by our scientists from the biocybernetics laboratory of the Institute of Agrophysics of the USSR Academy of Sciences. True, they emitted low-frequency signals from thirsty beans.

Remembering Pavlov’s experiments, the researchers assembled a device that turned on automatic watering as soon as it “heard” from the beans that they were thirsty.

As a result, the cunning grower not only provided herself with a drink, but also, without human intervention, reprogrammed the system to the most, apparently, optimal mode for herself: instead of one-time plentiful watering, she turned on the water once an hour for a couple of minutes.

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Biologists from Alma-Ata University also remembered Pavlov: every time they shocked a philodendron stalk, they placed a stone next to it.

The execution continued many times. As a result, when one day a stone was placed next to the plant just like that, the poor flower reacted in the same way as to the next dose of electric shock. But the same Pavlov considered the conditioned reflex to be exclusively an attribute of higher nervous activity!

There were quite a few experiments on the empathy of plants. Surprisingly, they were “outraged” not only when they mocked their relatives, but also when they tortured or called names animals and people – a reaction that other lovers of clearings could learn from.

By the way, gardeners have repeatedly been convinced that many representatives of the flora understand human speech. It is worth telling a tree that has ceased to bear fruit that you will cut it down as unnecessary, as the next year it produces a record harvest.

The American breeder Luther Burbank (1849-1926) even used this feature at one time. For several years he struggled to breed a cactus without needles (they grew there with one terribly tasty, but terribly prickly appearance), but all efforts were in vain, until, out of hopelessness, the botanist began to convince the cactus that nothing threatened him in a bald form, and in general , without needles, life is much more interesting.

And in the end, he convinced him: after several generations, he stopped producing needles, passing this feature to all his descendants.

In general, it turns out that it was not in vain that our ancestors bothered with all sorts of sacred groves, went to pour out longing-sadness to some special tree, talked with grass-ants and performed other strange actions.

Our connection with the green inhabitants of forests, fields and gardens is actually much closer than it seems. And if the law of karma, as the wise assure, exists, other woodcutters should think about it. To be reborn as a raw material for a sawmill, without losing feelings, or even thoughts, is a pleasure for an amateur.


In Japan, it has been empirically established that in order to maintain their health at the right level, a person must spend at least 250 hours a year in the forest.


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