German Forest Ranger Finds That Trees Have Social Networks, Too

An article written by Sally McGrane, in the New York Times, is about a Peter Wohlleben, a forest ranger who discovered that trees essentially create a social network with surrounding trees. The article is a very interesting read; however, most of the article is a promotion for selling peter’s book, the information that can be taken away is something that is relatable to chapter seven and evolutionary games.

In our textbook, Networks, Crowds, and Markets, on page 194, it is stated that trees can receive payoffs from the Prisoner’s Dilemma game. If both trees grow they both will receive equal sunlight, but due to many factors, this can be difficult. Peter Wohlleben discovered that trees are in fact following a game theory strategy that is similar to the Prisoner’s Dilemma. When Peter was walking through the forest, he showed Sally McGrane two trees that evolved and grew to allow the other to receive the same amount of sunlight. Peter pointed to the trees and said, “You see how the thick branches point away from each other? That’s so they don’t block their buddy’s light.” Peter also said, “Working together in networks and sharing resources, they increase their resistance.” The trees are following the Prisoner’s Dilemma, they are growing tall and growing in a way that allows for all trees to benefit.

From the article, the trees in the forest the Peter Wohlleben studied were all tall trees. This shows that the strategy the trees followed was a Tall evolutionary strategy, because small trees would not be able to receive enough light and resources to survive in the forest. Once the trees were following the Tall evolutionary strategy, they followed the strategy that was social maximizing. All the tall trees received light, and they worked with one another to grow enough to continue the strategy that benefited the whole network.