Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Portraits of a neighborhood’s “ Wood Wide Web ”

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Sometimes mature douglas the firs send sugar to the saplings via miles of subterranean and thin mycorrhizal fungi. Through these same passages (the “Wood Wide Web”), birches can lend carbon to firs in summer, while firs reimburse it in fall. And trees of different species could share the nitrogen leached from salmon carcasses left over from a bear’s lunch.

When the pandemic hit photographer Andres Gonzalez retired to his home in Vallejo, north of the San Francisco Bay Area. He began to devour novels, including the climatic epic of Richard Powers The Overstory, which is in part inspired by the research of forest ecologist Suzanne Simard on mycorrhizal networks. On long walks, Gonzalez began to photograph the redwoods in his neighborhood. To him, the trees, alone outside the braided forest, looked diseased and isolated. But he knew that even these commuters Sequoia sempervirens survived in part thanks to the stupendous webs between them, some directly connected across adjacent lawns, and others, separate blocks, probably using the root systems of maples, laurels, yews – even ferns and grasses – as ties, lifelines under our created world.

In January, Gonzalez’s 90-year-old grandmother tested positive for Covid. She was soon hospitalized and the doctor recommended that the family get ready to say goodbye. Thirty of her Mexican grandmother’s saplings in Sunnyvale gathered on Zoom, atoning, joking, praying. “A nurse’s blue latex fingers would sometimes float in the frame to touch her, the surrogate of all of us,” Gonzalez says. Her grandmother survived. And now, when Gonzalez thinks about how they all came together in his room via a buried fiber optic, he also thinks about how lone trees aren’t really isolated.

Photographs by Andres Gonzalez

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