September 20, 2023

The amazing underground sounds of the largest organism on earth, and how they can help you take away your stress

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Pando consists of about 40,000 trees that are genetically identical.VW Pics/Contributor/Getty Images

  • Pando is the largest organism on Earth, consisting of approximately 40,000 genetically identical trees.

  • Sound designer Jeff Rice captured what this organism’s massive root system sounds like in a rainstorm.

  • The sounds are a deep, soothing rumble. Take a minute out of your busy day to listen and de-stress.

Make the trek to south-central Utah’s Fishlake National Forest and you’ll discover what’s believed to be the largest organism on Earth: the Pando tree.

At first glance, Pando looks like any other forest made up of individual trees.

But in 2008, scientists confirmed that these 40,000 or so towering trunks are actually genetically identical branches connected by the same root system.

In other words, Pando is a giant, singular organism that covers about 103 acres, or about the size of 78 American football fields.

Aerial view of the giant Pando forest with bare aspen trees in winter.

The Pando Forest is over 100 hectares in size.Anadolu Agency / Contributor / Getty Images

Jeff Rice, a sound designer at the Montana State University Library, recently captured the sounds of this quivering giant – and the resulting recordings are so soothing they may even relieve some stress.

What the largest organism on earth sounds like

Rice’s work involves recording the sounds of various natural environments and then archiving them on the Acoustic Atlas site.

A microphone placed in the middle of the Pando forest to record nature sounds.

One of the microphones Jeff Rice used to record Pando’s sounds.Jeff Rice

He first became captivated by Pando while on assignment for The New York Times Magazine in 2018, and got the chance to take it up in 2022 when he landed an artist residency through the nonprofit Friends of Pando.

Rice used several microphones to capture a wide variety of sounds — from the early morning birds and the fluttering leaves to unidentified creatures moving in the tree cavity.

Jessica Orwig Early morning birds

But the sound that surprised him the most was when he placed a hydrophone – a special microphone usually used to record underwater sounds – at the root of a branch about 20 meters high during a thunderstorm.

Jessica Orwig Rumbling roots

Hydrophones can pick up vibrations from a variety of surfaces, including roots. When Rice put on his headphones, he heard a deep, soothing rumble, which he believes came from vibrations traveling through the branches into the earth as the leaves quivered and quivered in the wind and rain.

And these vibrations can travel quite far, Rice dis
covered after a little experiment with Friends of Pando executive director Lance Oditt.

Close-up shot of green, heart-shaped leaves of a tree in the Pando Forest.

A close-up of rustling leaves in the Pando Forest that Rice captured.Jeff Rice

After the duo pounded gently on a branch 100 feet away, the hydrophone registered a low booming sound — suggesting that vibrations can travel through the earth from tree to tree, almost like a phone from a can.

The sounds of Pando can relieve your stress

Numerous studies have shown that listening to nature sounds can have mood-enhancing, analgesic and stress-reducing effects – while even improving cognitive performance.

But new research is beginning to discover exactly why it has this calming effect.

White tree trunks looking uphill to the dense Pando aspen forest.

Listening to sounds of nature can help relieve stress.Jeff Rice

A small study found that listening to nature sounds produced signs of an increase in what’s called parasympathetic activity, which helps activate a sense of calm when threatened.

When the study participants listened to artificial sounds, they did not experience the same increase in parasympathetic activity, leading the researchers to conclude that natural nature sounds have a stronger calming effect than artificial ones.

Rice has not included Pando’s sounds due to its possible stress-relieving benefits. Rather, he believes these recordings could hold enormous potential for exploring the inner workings of Pando’s hidden hydraulic system, root depth, insect colonies, and much more.

His recordings will be used in an art show at Seattle’s Jack Straw New Media Gallery in January 2024, Rice told Insider.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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