Trees are part an interconnect social system in a forest.
Trees pass needed chemicals to one another via a vast network of underground fungi. (Photo : GettyImages)

Suzanne Simard wants you to think about trees differently, not as rugged individualists bravely facing the world alone, but as part of a vast social world connected by an invisible underground network.

Her views are firmly rooted in scientific research and her ideas represent nothing less that a paradigm shift in ecological thought.

For over 30 years, Simard has been watching and listening to trees. She is a forest ecology professor at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences in Vancouver.

Recently in TED talk, Simard discussed a new way of thinking about plant communities, a new vision of the forest.

Simard’s views are hard-won, and she came upon them not by looking above ground in the forest but below. She concentrated on a little-understood aspect of forest biology: the extensive fungal networks that form enormous underground connections unseen to the casual observer.

When most of us think of a fungus in the forest, we think of mushrooms or morels. Those are the reproductive organs of fungi, growing upward out of the soil to hold…