CM – Exeter Boffins think trees can have memories


Monday, 8/9/2021 9:11 AM

From Radio Exe News

And pass the news on to their children

If it sounds like a big story, Exeter scientists, along with scientists at other universities, think trees can possibly remember stressful times in their lives like drought or disease. Better still, they could even pass these memories on to their descendants.

Clever things, trees – if the researchers are right, of course. Through a new government-funded study, they hope to improve understanding of the value of trees to people and the planet.

They will conduct experiments to show if and how trees remember troubled times and memories Pass on to their children through DNA modifications.

The project is one of six that UK Research and Innovation contributes to 10.5 million greenhouse gas emissions.

The expansion of trees, woodland and woodland in the UK will play an important role in realizing the government’s ambitions to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. However, trees need to be more resilient to stresses such as climate change, disease and competing demands on land in order to reverse the decade-long decline in biodiversity and environmental quality.

The Membra project (Understanding Memory of UK Treescapes for Better Resilience and Adaptation) is led by Dr. Estrella Luna-Diez of the University of Birmingham’s School of Biosciences and the Birmingham Institute for Forest Research. The project includes researchers from the fields of biology, ecology, classical, geography and earth sciences and is a partnership between the University of Birmingham and the Universities of Exeter, Leeds, Leicester and Bangor and the Walking Forest art group.

Dr. Katharine Earnshaw of the University of Exeter will lead the work to find out how an appreciation of tree memory, as well as the language of memory, can influence human decision-making skills and our moral relationship with tree landscapes.

She said, “We are interested in the role of memory in the moral standing of trees in ancient and modern thought; and how MEMBRA’s research has important implications for linguistic justice, history and heritage. We hope MEMBRA will be a model of how the arts, humanities and sciences can work together on such crucial environmental issues. ”

Research in Exeter includes classical academics (Dr. Katharine Earnshaw) and the Global Systems Institute ( Professor Tim Lenton) in dialogue with the walking forest art collective. The scholarship includes funding for a postdoctoral fellow based in Exeter, as well as a number of events taking place here during the three-year project period.

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