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Trees Cry Out For Help, Too; Researchers Looking For Way To Listen

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First Posted: May 02, 2013 03:43 PM EDT
Several trees towering towards the sky.

Several trees towering towards the sky. Credit:Archangel Ancient Tree Archive / iTech Post

A team of French scientists has discovered that living trees, much like their human counterparts, actually do cry out for help when they're in dire need of water. The researchers claim they are getting close to pinpointing the lamentation noises of such parched trees.

Experiments by the scientists have been made at France's Grenoble University, in which ultrasonic pops have been isolated in chinks of dead pine wood that has been made up to react as living wood by being bathed in hyrdrogel.

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These ultrasonic pops the scientists are isolating are 100 times faster than what a human being can hear, according to LiveScience, which reported on the story published on Thursday, May 2.

The gel-infused chunks of dead tree were then artificially exposed to conditions similar to those in an extremely dry environment, allowing the scientists to listen to air bubbles popping as they would in a way comparable to what would happen to a tree's wood during a drought.

This is the first time hydrogel has been used for this purpose, according to LiveScience, which added that lead researcher Philippe Marmottant said though the experiment was merely an approximation of what occurs in nature, it is still helping him and his team isolate the noise of suffering trees.

"We can track the articulation of bubbles, and what we found is the majority of the sounds that we hear are linked to bubbles," said Marmottant, who is collaborating on his research with a duo of postgraduate students. "I say majority, because there may be other causes like cracks in the wood or insects. But the majority of sounds that occur during cavitations (tiny air bubbles that pop out in the water) are due to these bubbles."

It seems there is actually a "race" on now for researchers who are trying to become the first to develop a tree-listening device or equipment. A team at Duke University feels it may be ready with such equipment — taking advantage of acoustic sensor technology — as early as this summer.

Marmottant's team also is looking into developing a sensor for the purpose of listening to trees.

"[W]e hope that our study will bring some new information about the sounds that could be heard in trees," Marmottant said.

What do you think? Can trees "talk"? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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