A whisper from the woods

Mushrooms: The Internet of Trees

Jun 26, 2023

By Patty Rangel, Our Regional Coordinator for California, USA / Baja California, Mexico, International Ambassador to the Global Ecovillage Network and Board of Directors, San Diego Mycological Society

In recent years, scientists have discovered that mushrooms are much more than just a  tasty addition to your favorite dish. In fact, they are the “Internet of trees” – a vast network of underground fungi that connects trees and other plants in a similar way to how the Internet connects people.

The research on the “internet of trees” began in the 1990s, when Canadian ecologist  Suzanne Simard discovered that trees in a forest were connected through a vast network of underground mycorrhizal fungi known as the “wood wide web”. They attach themselves to the tree’s roots and help it to absorb nutrients from the soil in exchange for sugars produced by the tree’s photosynthesis.

The mycorrhizal network is made up of microscopic filaments called hyphae, which connect the roots of different plants and trees. These hyphae act like an underground internet, allowing plants to exchange nutrients, water, and even hormones. For example,  if one tree is under stress due to drought or disease, it can send out hormones to warn other nearby trees of the danger. The other trees can then prepare themselves for the impending threat. But it’s not just trees that are connected through these underground networks. These fungi form a mutually beneficial relationship with trees and other plants,  including shrubs, herbs, and even grasses. This means that entire ecosystems are linked together!

Human beings can help trees and mushrooms by practicing “mycorestoration” in regenerative projects. With the Global Tree Initiative working towards reforestation and preserving natural habitats, it is important to share how mycorestoration can supply innovative ways to mitigate the impact of human activities. Fungi are natural decomposers that break down complex organic matter, like dead trees, into simpler compounds that can be absorbed by plants. This decomposition process is crucial for the health of our forests, as it contributes to nutrient cycling, soil formation, and carbon sequestration. By introducing native fungi species into areas where deforestation has occurred, we can help regenerate soil and support the growth of new trees. Fungi form symbiotic relationships with tree roots, improving their ability to absorb water and nutrients. This increased access to resources accelerates tree growth and improves their resilience to stress, such as drought or disease.

Fostering sustainable communities through mycorestoration can be conducted through global partnerships that promote ecology within Ecovillage Design Education (EDE’s).  The Global Ecovillage Network‘s presence in five continents and in over 8000  communities around the planet, helps the regenerative approach to community building and preservation of existing forests. By promoting sustainable land management practices and reducing our reliance on extractive industries, ecovillages can help prevent deforestation and protect the habitats of countless plant and animal species.

In conclusion, the integration of mycorestoration and ecovillage principles can significantly contribute to the Global Tree Initiative’s mission to protect and restore our planet’s forests. By utilizing the power of fungi and promoting sustainable living practices,

We can create resilient ecosystems that support both human communities and the natural environment. As an advocate for these principles, I am proud to be a part of the global movement to regenerate our forests and cultivate a sustainable future for us all.


Patty Rangel is a 2022 GEN (Global Ecovillage Network) representative to the United Nations Environment Program (General Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya), a graduate of the United Nations Summer Intensive Program (UN Headquarters in New York City),  Honorary Burning Man Earth Guardian, and a member of EcoVillages in France, Italy, Mexico, and  the USA. Patty is passionate about ARTivism and empowering Indigenous Nations. She has been involved with GEN since 2007.

If you want to get in contact with Patty, send her an email at Patty@PlantGrowSave.org




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