News & Trends

Are Trees a More Intelligent Version of People?

Life Science News

Trees have been living on our planet for about 390 million years. Recently mankind, which has lived on the earth for barely 200ʼ000 years, has begun to take a closer look at these plants. Treebeard – the leader of the trees in the `Lord of the Rings` series – would no doubt have been delighted at the growing interest that’s being shown in them. But a mixture of science and romantic enlightenment sometimes creates a rather impenetrable form of woodland.

Woodland doesn’t just provide timber, oxygen and relaxation, it’s also a treasure trove of fairy tales and myths. So it’s hardly surprising that Peter Wohlleben’s bestseller “The Hidden Life of Trees” provokes just as much enthusiasm as it does discussion.


Suzanne Simard, Professor of Forest Ecology in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia, has been investigating this forest “underworld” for almost twenty years, and she reveals some exciting facts. She is firmly convinced that trees have a neural network – i.e. intelligence. Indicators of this are, for instance, changes in behaviour following sensory perception, communication and the ability to learn. While the symbiotic relationships between mushrooms and roots (mycorrhizae) which provide each other with nutrients has been known for a long time, Simard found out that old trees recognise their own seedlings and “favour” them− or alternatively let them “starve” if they are growing in a sub-optimal location


Simard notes that the “Salish” people − the original inhabitants of the north-west coast of America − have always believed in the ability of plants to communicate. For instance, they called trees “tree people” and strawberries “strawberry people”. However communication between plants actually takes place at the level of chemical interactions. We still don’t know whether any emotions are actually involved, but we have found the chemical messenger serotonin in leaves.

The research is still very much in its infancy. Questions about communication and cooperation between trees should be cleared up by post-graduate students at the University of Halle and their colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. That is where 566 artificial woods of various types have been planted. It has yet to be seen whether they will be able to teach us anything. But one thing is fairly certain: investigating the natural world is good for mankind as a whole and will hopefully teach us to treat it with greater respect and in a more sustainable manner.

Nature: «too big to fail»

The preservation of biodiversity and
habitats has for a long time now been
a topic which is not just part of the
“green agenda”. However, many companies
are still cautious when it comes
to the subject of biodiversity. Although
the subject affects everyone of u

The OECD estimates that between 1997 and 2011 up to 20 billion US dollars was lost – simply due to increasing soil erosion (due to the clearing of woodland etc.). Air pollution and pollution of watercourses, overfishing or the extermination of animals and plants are further examples.

These events also make biodiversity risks into a source of fi nancial risks. So nature can be regarded as being “too big to fail”, in other words just as systemically important as all the world‘s major banks and national airlines put together. Globalance evaluates the effects of these systems on the world‘s land
areas, animals and plants through the Globalance footprint. We are focusing on innovative business models which can help us to tackle these challenges.