Story of UBC researcher who found how trees ‘talk’ to each other headed to Hollywood

Click to play video: 'Forest research makes UBC professor a Hollywood star'
Forest research makes UBC professor a Hollywood star
A UBC professor is going to "Hollywood" as a result of what she's learned about our forests and as Emad Agahi reports, her research is especially timely given the ongoing old-growth protests on Vancouver Island – May 29, 2021

The life and groundbreaking work of a UBC forestry professor is headed for the silver screen.

Arrival star Amy Adams is set to portray forest ecology professor Suzanne Simard in an upcoming film co-produced by Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Read more: The story behind the viral photo of a massive old-growth tree on a B.C. highway

“There were like six major production film companies and lots of interest and it became like a bidding thing. I basically interviewed these incredible actresses and production teams, and I’m like, ‘What am I doing here, it was amazing,'” Simard told Global News.

Click to play video: 'Teal-Jones eager to return to work amid old-growth protests'
Teal-Jones eager to return to work amid old-growth protests

“There was a ton of interest and I think it’s because this is a story of the times, losing our old-growth forest, and then climate change. We are at a crisis point and we are making these bone-headed decisions for reasons of the past.”

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The film is set to adapt Simard’s recent memoir Finding the Mother Tree, which documents her own upbringing in a forestry family and her research on how ancient trees help forests communicate through a fungal and biochemical underground “internet.”

“I found that trees are actually connected below ground and they redistribute resources among themselves, like a whole connected community,” Simard said.

“The big old trees, which by the way are what we go after when we’re harvesting first, they’re the ones that are the most highly connected to the other trees. And they redistribute carbon and nitrogen and water among the other trees to raise the productivity of the whole ecosystem. How moist it is, how nutritious it is, how much photosynthesis can go on.”

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Read more: New tactics on display as B.C.’s old-growth logging dispute heats up

Simard said she hopes the movie raises people’s awareness of how interconnected forests are, and how necessary old-growth trees are for biodiversity.

Click to play video: 'Hundreds protest logging rules on Vancouver Island'
Hundreds protest logging rules on Vancouver Island

She believes current clear-cut logging practices and old-growth harvesting are both unsustainable and incompatible with that interconnectivity, something else she’s hoping to communicate to audiences.

“We need to leave them aside for their ecological value. But there’s other forests we can continue to harvest in, albeit at a lower rate than we have right now and more carefully than what we’re doing right now,” Simard said

“I hope it can help us move past this polarization. It doesn’t have to be like this. We can get so much more value out of the forests.”

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