With a microphone stuck in the ground, the voice of the largest tree on the planet was recorded: it is called Pando, it is located in Utah (USA), and it is a single large organism spread over 43 hectares, made up of 47,000 American Aspens ( Populus tremuloides) genetically identical to each other and connected by a large underground root system. It is estimated that it has been regenerating for over 9,000 years, making Pando one of the oldest organisms on Earth.
The recording, presented at the Acoustical Society of America Congress, documents the vibrations recorded in close contact with the roots during a thunderstorm in July 2022. It was made by Seattle-based sound artist Jeff Rice on behalf of the non-profit organization Friends of Pando ”, founded by Lance Oditt.
The sounds captured in the ground by the hydrophone (a certain type of microphone that works in contact with water) could come from the vibrations present in the soil, but also in Pando’s roots.
Rice and Oditt actually demonstrated that vibrations can pass from one tree to another: when they tried to hit a branch, the hydrophone placed almost 30 meters away recorded a thud. A similar phenomenon also happened during the storm: the more the leaves were moved by the wind, the more the intensity of the signal recorded by the hydrophone increased.
Rice compares Pando to a can “telephone” made by children, only instead of two cans connected by string, “there are 47,000 cans connected by a giant root system.”
Although the experiment was born with an artistic intention, it could soon acquire a scientific character: through sounds, in fact, the health conditions of the tree could be assessed in a non-invasive way and the changes in the biodiversity that populates it could be documented.
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