Forest UnderSound Mycorrhizal networks

January 23rd, 2021 – September 26th, 2021

The Museum, Kitchener, Ontario

My concept for this installation stems from (;p) Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees: What they feel, How they communicate.

Wohlleben talks about how Trees feel pain (even scream), raise their children, and help other sick trees by providing nutrients through their roots.

When predators (e.g., insects) begin feasting on tree bark or leaves, trees are able to defend themselves. “Oaks, for example, carry bitter, toxic tannins in their barks and leaves,” says Wohlleben. Trees (and plants) recognize when they are under attack and release chemicals, warning neighbouring trees (and plants) of predators.

Trees and plants communicate. 

Mycorrhizal fungi & the Wood Wide Web

For the installation itself I am slowly growing Oak and Maple trees from acorns/seed and will introduce other plants native to Boreal forests, as well as introduce non-native plants* and of course fungi.
Oak sapling

Oak sprout

Electrodes will be placed within roots, onto leaves and bark for the Bio-sonification modules to record and translate this information to MIDI creating a Understory soundscape through modular analog synthesis. It will be interesting to see (hear) how the soundscape evolves as the forest grows, as visitors enter the installation. For this aspect I am working on a visualisation that will immediately reflect the fungi part of this environment. The biosensors will send data directly into a Touch Designer video projection. This projection will alter/morph or not depending on people in the space. I might even set up a CO2 sensor or an IOT device linked to a nearby forest for comparison purposes.
* Scientists at Yoshioka’s lab– Department of Cell & Systems Biology
University of Toronto are generously donating transgenic plants for this installation- while I fiddle away with CRISPR at my studio adding GFP to tobacco plants.
My thinking around this is to perhaps see the plants sending signals via the GFP – meanwhile, what is GFP? Also, here’s a video of what GFP looks like under UV light. 

The Museum has generously offered to construct a special terrarium for the forest – I am thinking of using Lexan and phyto-agar in some containers so people can see the mycorrhizal fungi at work with the tree/plant roots.
 
Case concept drawing

Case concept

 

 

 

 

 

Either one large terrarium for this eco-system or perhaps 2 separate eco-systems with 1 tube that connects them- to see if the fungi network connects.

case concept drawing 2

Case concept with tube connection

The glowing plants require UV/Black light. While The Museum can modify lighting for various exhibits, etc., I think we might need to create a small area people walk into that has light blocked out or maybe a section of the terrarium uses a tinted Lexan- we shall see. 

Mycorrhizal network image

Mutualistic associations between plants and fungi are incredibly widespread, occurring in 90% of extant land plants, and likely are the most ecologically important symbiotic relationships on Earth. Fungi played an integral part in land plant evolution; roots only evolved after early land plants colonised terrestrial environments and these associations allowed for mutualistic exchange of inorganic nutrients and water for carbohydrates in harsh environments predating existing soils. The majority of extant land plants are associated with the Mucoromycota sub phylum Glomeromycotina, a division of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi that penetrate the cortical cells of plant roots for nutrient exchange. Because of this associative abundance together with fossil evidence, it has long been hypothesised that this division of fungi facilitated colonisation of land by early plants. However, a recent study showed evidence that another Mucoromycota sub phylum, Mucoromycotina, was likely responsible for enabling the establishment of early land plants, and that Glomeromycotina was a secondary acquisition. This study also revealed that transitions from one fungal phyla to another, such as to species from the Basidiomycota and Ascomycota, or forming symbioses with multiple fungal partners, may have led to unique niche expansions and radiations such as those seen in the orchids, the largest family of land plants on Earth, as well as plants adapted to nutrient poor or acidic soil. The importance of Mucoromycotina in land plant evolution will likely become more apparent as the relationships between mycorrhizal fungi and plants are further explored1.

  1. Mycorrhizal fungi shaped the evolution of terrestrial plants /in , , , /by

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