Trees communicate with each other using a sophisticated network of roots and fungi which together create a real social network, the so-called "wood wide web". Trees and these beneficial fungi are in a symbiotic relationship with each other, with the trees providing nourishment for the fungi which, in turn, serve both as a means of communication, and to obtain water and nutrients from the soil. Thanks to a set of filaments called hyphae, fungi act like the fibre optic cables of the internet, and can even connect parts of the forest that are very distant from each other. Forests thus become superorganisms similar to an anthill, where the contribution of each member is fundamental for the health of the entire community.
Scientists have observed how the exchange of nutrients between plants - even of different species - is normal, just like helping one's neighbours in times of need. Large silver-grey beech trees take care of their sick companions in the same way each member in a herd of elephants cares for the others. Peter Wohlleben also references another such example of this nutrient exchange which he was able to observe for himself on a tree in a beech forest. Although the beach trunk had been felled hundreds of years earlier, some gnarled remains of the enormous, ancient stump were still alive. This was possible because of the support of the surrounding trees which, through the network of roots and fungi, continued to pump a sugary solution into the undergrowth, which kept it alive. Without leaves it is in fact impossible to carry out photosynthesis and, consequently, to independently produce this sugary substance, which is fundamental for the survival of trees. It should be noted however, that these functions are not based on empathy or compassion, but only a practical function. Together trees live better and longer.
There are various types of damage a tree can suffer. The main culprits are animals. For example, woodpeckers pierce the trunk, deer consume young shoots to instinctively promote the growth of their antlers, and aphids suck the liquid contained in the leaves for sustenance. Natural phenomena such as storms, frost, snow, and rain also pose a risk to trees. To defend themselves, these creatures have developed different tactics. The branches of spruce trees are arranged in such a way that when they are stressed by the weight of the snow, they lie on top of each other without breaking. When a branch breaks or a tree suffers a laceration to its trunk, the chances of survival are narrow; when this happens, there are non-beneficial fungi that exploit these wounds to enter the trunk and ultimately kill it.