See that white tree there amongst the green ones? I'm not certain, but I think it's an albino.
Like animals, some tress are born as albinos, devoid of pigments due to a genetic mutation. Without photosynthetic pigments, a tree cannot harvest energy from sunlight and normally wouldn't survive. But in a rainforest, any tree will be nurtured by the rest of its community, sharing resources through their roots. Even a tree unable to give anything back.
Image credit: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters
In North America, albino redwood trees are quite well known. Unable to support themselves, they survive purely through the help of the other trees which surround them. In a forest, those with more always give to those with less, so that all can survive.
That's an example for all of us to learn from.
ahh this is so beautiful 😭
Forests are so inspiring 💚
The Albino Code, a bond more sacred than his loyalty to Saint Cloud.
@InvaderXan I thought you were making this up as a long-winded political metaphor but they're fucking real
Sounds cool, so how does that work?
Forest trees are interconnected by vast networks of fungi – Mycorrhizal networks. Anything connected to the network takes what it needs from others and gives back any surplus it has. That way, the forest works together for mutual benefit.
So what does this tree need it can't do on it's own?
(I also liked the analogy btw, but more interested in the actual biology :)
Oh, that was no analogy. That's literally what happens.
Being completely without chlorophyll, an albino tree can't photosynthesise and therefore can't produce sugars. Most of a plant's living structures are made from sugars – mostly cellulose and lignin.
The large trees in a forest produce more than they need. They share it through their roots in a process called rhizodeposition. Fungi in the soil pick up those sugars, take what they need, and share the rest with other trees. That way, there will always be healthy trees providing more sugars.
Meanwhile, the fungi break down decaying matter and harvest nitrogen from the soil, again passing on any excess to the trees.
Everything nurtures everything else. By helping other organisms to survive, they ensure that there will always be someone helping their own survival too.
Cool! Thanks! That was fun to read about.
@webmind @Nocta @InvaderXan BTW I dug a little deeper and it turns out that albino redwoods need a root-graft connection for sap exchange, so the mycorrhizal network isn't involved — understandably, since fungi are unlikely to give away sugars they can use to build their own empires. Also, there's a new paper about how maybe they concentrate toxic heavy metals so other trees don't have to suffer them
@InvaderXan @webmind @Nocta This paper is great, thanks! But it doesn't actually say the carbon they transport is in the form of sugars; the only time it mentions carbohydrates at all is when it's talking about root grafts like the ones I said sustain albino redwoods. What leads you to believe that the carbon transport they detected is in the form of sugars rather than, say, carbonate?
@InvaderXan @webmind @Nocta Fungi aren't plants; they metabolize sugars into water and carbon dioxide, or, more generally speaking, carbonate — there's a dynamic pH-dependent equilibrium between carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, and carbonate ions in aqueous solution. (Plants do too in their respiratory processes.) It would be far less surprising for mycorrhizal transport of carbon to consist of sugar that is then oxidized within the fungus.
@InvaderXan @webmind @Nocta The reason this matters is that carbon atoms in carbonate are already fully oxidized and don't provide energy to the plants that take them up; they provide mass that can be incorporated into sugars by photosynthesis, although of course the albino trees couldn't do that.
You're correct that carbonate forms salts with very low solubility with certain cations, such as calcium, but other carbonate salts are highly soluble; think about your blood.
You're once again trying really hard, but you haven't provided anything beyond your own conjecture and supposition.
I've already proven you wrong about rhizospheric carbon transport. You're still attempting to refute me, for some reason. The burden of proof is on you. Until you provide any, I'm not continuing this.
@InvaderXan Is the photo yours?
No, sadly, not mine.
Sorry. Forgot to include the actual source.
The second image is by Cole Shatto/Wikimedia Commons.
!!!!! this is AMAZING
@InvaderXan this is beautiful. I feel like an albino tree sometimes.
Perhaps. Or perhaps we all simply need interdependence in order to thrive.
@InvaderXan that for sure but some people feel as if they can't give anything back.
Not everyone should need to. Those who can help those who can't. Those who have give to those without. After all, that's why communities and societies, both human and otherwise, developed in the world.
@InvaderXan @AzureKingfisher it's so nice to hear about things like this. Usually people emphasise the value you can bring to society, and often I don't feel like I am very "useful". I'm not even sure if I'll be able to have a full time job, not being able to have a lot of time to myself to relax really stresses me out for some reason. I had an internship for a couple of months and I got really stressed just from that. I have no idea why I'm like this but it makes me feel like I'm not very useful. The idea of everyone helping each other and being kind is such a nice thought, I wish we didn't live in a society which valued marketable skills.
We're all fed this image of productivity. Jobs and spreadsheets and meetings, and things which mean very little in the grand scheme of things.
A depressed man who lives alone and paints pictures is not "useful" under modern definitions, but Van Gogh made a huge impact on human culture.
Your value lies in who you are. Not how "useful" you appear to be.
@InvaderXan our mother showed us a paper about this resource-sharing thing! apparently, the symbiotic fungus all forest trees have in their roots is in a large part responsible for it, especially the process of sequestering carbon from dying and dead trees. forest fungus is really really cool.
Mycorrhizal fungi networks. They're fascinating. The underground wiring which connects an entire forest and shares its resources.
They don't just sequester carbon from dying and dead trees – young trees in a forest receive far more nutrients from these networks than they give. While the old trees can connect to hundreds of smaller ones nearby.
The whole thing amazes me!
@InvaderXan I am crying a bit, this is wonderful, thank you for sharing it!
The intricacies of nature and the way life is so deeply interconnected makes me emotional too 💚
@InvaderXan I was reading about this, apparently it’s specifically true of redwoods, which are the only trees (citation needed) who share a root network with neighboring trees. It might be the only photosynthetic organism on the planet capable of surviving as an albino. https://curiosity.com/topics/albino-ghost-trees-shouldnt-exist-but-they-do-curiosity/
Redwoods do share nutrients directly, bypassing mycorrhizal networks, it's true. Though redwoods don't grow in the Amazon, so this can't explain that first image I posted.
@InvaderXan saw this cute post only for it to end in some dude spouting out weird capitalist shit
Why is the world like this
I wish I knew. There’s a lot of stuff wrong with the world, I guess.
Let’s change it. 💚
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