Underneath the ground, hidden from view, there’s a massive network of fungi and bacteria hard at work in close partnership with tree roots. In exchange for food from the trees, the microbes help transfer nutrients from the atmosphere or soil to the trees and back. They also influence what kinds of trees grow where, affect how resilient trees are to diseases, and respond to disturbances.
For the first time ever, researchers have mapped this underground network of microbes connecting forest trees around the world using an enormous data set of more than 1.1 million forest plots. These plots collectively contain information on more than 30 million individual trees and 28,000 tree species from more than 70 countries.