See that white tree there amongst the green ones? I'm not certain, but I think it's an albino.

Like animals, some tress are born as albinos, devoid of pigments due to a genetic mutation. Without photosynthetic pigments, a tree cannot harvest energy from sunlight and normally wouldn't survive. But in a rainforest, any tree will be nurtured by the rest of its community, sharing resources through their roots. Even a tree unable to give anything back.

Image credit: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

In North America, albino redwood trees are quite well known. Unable to support themselves, they survive purely through the help of the other trees which surround them. In a forest, those with more always give to those with less, so that all can survive.

That's an example for all of us to learn from.

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@webmind
Forest trees are interconnected by vast networks of fungi – Mycorrhizal networks. Anything connected to the network takes what it needs from others and gives back any surplus it has. That way, the forest works together for mutual benefit.

@InvaderXan
Cool!

So what does this tree need it can't do on it's own?

(I also liked the analogy btw, but more interested in the actual biology :)

@webmind
Oh, that was no analogy. That's literally what happens.

Being completely without chlorophyll, an albino tree can't photosynthesise and therefore can't produce sugars. Most of a plant's living structures are made from sugars – mostly cellulose and lignin.

The large trees in a forest produce more than they need. They share it through their roots in a process called rhizodeposition. Fungi in the soil pick up those sugars, take what they need, and share the rest with other trees. That way, there will always be healthy trees providing more sugars.

Meanwhile, the fungi break down decaying matter and harvest nitrogen from the soil, again passing on any excess to the trees.

Everything nurtures everything else. By helping other organisms to survive, they ensure that there will always be someone helping their own survival too.

@InvaderXan @webmind So the healthy trees are like workers, the fungi are like managers, and the albino trees are like investors and the government?

@kragen @webmind
Not sure why you’re trying to assign a corporate hierarchy to a forest ecosystem...

@InvaderXan @webmind well, you were talking about trees sustaining a tree that didn't give anything back, and to me that sounds a lot like a capitalist :)

@Nocta @InvaderXan @webmind Doesn't anarcho-capitalism like investors and hate government? In my analogy they're in the same bucket

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