Wood wide web, Simard, doubts

Science grows by approximations and nothing ever is black or white in science. I always mention to my students what I had in a T-shirt from the Weizmann Institute of Science Department of Mathematics (WISDOM for short), a phrase that I am not sure who it should be attributed to: “The universe is under no obligation to make sense but students in pursuit of their PhD are”. That is how gray becomes black or white in science, but it shouldn’t. The article below discusses how there are doubts about the extent to which the idea of a wood wide web is representative of all forests or even fundamental or essential in any one forest. For those that haven’t heard of it, it is the idea that an underground mycorrhizal network connects trees in the forest and exchange nutrients in a manner that fosters cooperation as opposed to competition, which is what more traditionally trees are thought to engage on in a forest. An idea popularized by Suzanne Simard and the book the hidden life of trees. Cutting the story short, the idea is not yet scientific consensus (the closest scientific level to ‘truth’). Time and again as a scientist myself, I find that the most prudent approach to any claim is that we should curb our enthusiasm and that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (Sagan standard). The reality of how important mycorrhizal networks are, probably lies somewhere in the middle.

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