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Bio-bullets

Trees as green quazi-zombies

Trees have evolved into zombies in the sense that they comprise mainly dead cells in maturity. This reveals that the energy built into wood is superfluous to the economy of arborescence.

professor caricatureProf. Mumblebard claims: "Wood forms the skeleton of plants, providing essential support for the tree growth-form. Allocation of energy and – to a lesser extent – nutrients to wood is unavoidable and these resources cannot be retrieved during the lifetime of the individual tree because all stems that are extremely lignified happen to have concentric growth.”

logoRobin and the Honey Badger respond: "Living bones are biomass but dead wood is necromass, so it’s puzzling that hardwood trees sink so much irretrievable energy into wood. Plants have three theoretical options for saving energy as they grow tall. Firstly, they could minimise necromass and conserve energy by growing hollow like bamboos rather than growing solid. Secondly, they could evolve an enzymatic ability to autolyse cellulose for internal recycling, avoiding the wastage of energy in heartwood and shed branches. And thirdly, they could retrieve{njaccess 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8} nutrients by other means such as encouraging fungi and termites to tunnel within the trunks during the life of the plant while leaving an intact cylinder of wood for support. But most trees don’t use any of these options and forfeit so much energy in cellulose that they are quazi-zombies. The reason is that, in the world’s hardwood-dominated forests and woodlands, photosynthetic energy is cheap relative to the scarce resources – such as certain micro-nutrients – which require thrift and internal recycling."{!njaccess}… Reveal the hidden half of this response by Robin and the Honey Badger by subscribing here{/njaccess}

 

Please join us here at the Bio-edge with your own comments. In the discussion below we encourage links to any evidence supporting either Prof. Mumblebard or Robin and the Honey Badger. Illustrations are welcome but please cite all sources or we may be forced under copyright to delete your comment.

Last modified on 24 June 2015

Comments   

0 #1 Wildman 2014-02-13 12:21
If you watch this tree grow, you get the impression of a dynamic, very-much-fully -alive organism. But as RHB point out, things are not what they seem. For it’s true that most of this creature is already dead!

www.youtube.com/.../
0 #2 Wingnut 2014-02-13 12:25
So what’s your point, Wildman?
0 #3 J. Ordsden 2014-02-13 12:27
@wingnut. Well, it does seem to imply that sunlight and CO2 are easy come easy go for trees because a trunk could theoretically function without being solid and full of wasted energy in the form of dead heartwood. See RHB’s other bio-bullet on this topic “Seeing the light for the trees” explorebioedge.com/.../...
0 #4 Taklamakan 2014-03-06 13:08
Eucalypts do seem to be the best example of trees that recycle their own heartwood while still alive and growing. That’s why its the Australian aboriginals who came up with didjeridus and not some other aboriginal group on another continent. But surely there must be some other genera or families of trees on the other continents that do something similar and do it more than the rather half-hearted hollowing one finds in e.g. senile oaks. Does anyone know if certain trees get extensively hollowed out somewhere in South America for example?
0 #5 Phytoforce 2014-03-06 14:24
Here’s some food for thought on the subject of tree stems and what they’re made of and why.

runninglane.deviantart.com/... /...
The dead wood of trees can look like bony skeletons.


Bamboo supports itself economically by being a hollow stem with partitions.
0 #6 Phytoforce 2014-03-07 11:14
Who knew that melaleucas, relatives of eucalypts usually known as ‘paperbarks’, have roots that grow upwards under the loose bark? It’s thought that these aerial but usually hidden roots help to convey oxygen down to the underground roots because melaleucas often grow in swampy places where the waterlogged soils are short of oxygen and the roots have a hard time respiring. But this made me think, why couldn’t some trees send up roots into their own heartwood through any holes made by wood-boring insects and the like at the base of the trunk, and then recycle their own nutrients from any fungus-rotting of their own standing heartwood? Maybe some trees actually do this but nobody’s noticed?
0 #7 Redfern 2014-03-07 16:39
Certain trees can certainly be alive and healthy even if hollow. The hollowing is done by termites that eat only the heartwood.

For example, healthy trees, when cut down, can often have stumps looking like this


Didgeridoos are made from naturally hollowed, living eucalypts inhabited by termites that do no harm to the tree.
See:

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