Insights Into the Wood Wide Web

PHS Digital Classroom

With Suzanne Simard Lab University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Forestry PhD candidates, Allen Laroque and Katie McMahen

Below the soil surface plants are carrying on complex interactions with each other and benefitting from the redistribution of resources across a vast fungal network. These researchers are exploring complex symbiotic relationships between trees and mycorrhizal networks and ways in which the forest responds to degradation by participating in the rehabilitation and growth of the soil microbiome. Gardeners learn how to help their landscapes tap into the wood wide web.


Katie McMahen, is a scientist and PhD student who worked for 5 years in the Mount Polley Mine Environmental Department. Following a tailings dam failure at the mine which created a challenging reclamation project, she found a unique venue for research on ecosystem recovery. Katie’s research tests methods for rehabilitating the soil food web in mine reclamation. Recolonization of soil organisms is important because they drive the processes necessary to re-develop a functional soil, including development of soil structure, cycling of nutrients and formation of beneficial symbiotic relationships with plants.


Allan Larocque, is an ecologist and PhD student in the faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. His thesis, ‘Fish, Forests, Fungi’ investigates how energy and nutrients derived from dying salmon flow through coastal forests. Salmon come home to their natal streams each fall to spawn and die, and their corpses feed bears, wolves and other forest animals distribute them deep into the forest many kilometers from the sea. From these carcasses plants can gain access to nitrogen and other nutrients that encourage growth; hence salmon can ‘fertilize’ the forest.


This presentation is part of Pacific Horticulture’s Digital Classroom online learning series to connect gardeners with some of the most intriguing horticultural and environmental issues of our time.

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This program was made possible thanks to the generous contributions of our donors and a supporting grant from the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

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