BY ANUPUM PANT
Remember the biosphere 2? In short, it’s a miniature version of our planet, nowowned by the university of Arizona, constructed for scientists to study how the planet’s living systems actually work. Learnings from this tiny planet enabled scientists to innovate and come up with new ideas related to growth of plants etc. Or that is what they thought when they planned to make this biosphere.
The major discovery from it was something they had never expected. The most interesting thing they learnt from it was the importance of wind in a plant’s life. Who’d have thought!
In the biosphere 2, they had trees growing faster than they would grow in the wild. Also, they found that these trees wouldn’t completely mature. Before they could, they used to collapse. Later it was found that this was caused by the lack of wind in the biosphere. And it turns out, wind plays a major role in a trees life. The presence of wind makes a tree stronger, it is thus able to mature and not fall down due to its own weight.
When plants and trees grow in the wild, the wind constantly keeps them moving. This causes a stress in the wooden load bearing structure of the tree. So, to compensate, the tree manages to grow something called the reaction wood (or stress wood). This stress wood usually has a different structure (in terms of cellulose or lignin content and more) and is able to position the tree where it’d get the best light, or other optimum resources. This is the reason why trees are able to contort towards best light and still survive loads in even awkward shapes. A contorted building like that would easily fall. The tree is able to grow in a more solid manner – thanks to the reaction wood.
If there’s no wind, like in the biosphere 2, the trees end up being much weaker and aren’t able to survive for long. This happens in homes too. Plants grown indoors, without any kind of wind hitting them on a regular basis tend to become weak. So, before they are planted outside in the wild conditions, their structure has to be strengthened by causing stress.
Remember, stress is what makes a tree strong enough to sustain the wear and tear that it’d face later in life.