Watch this “Breathing” Forest Come to Life

November 13, 2015 | Joanne Kennell

Photo credit: Manuel Petitat/Youtube

Viral video shows what appears to be Mother Earth breathing in Apple River, Nova Scotia.

Can forests breathe?  Of course they can, and they do it every second of every day.  Trees do not breathe the same way as humans and most animals on the planet though.  They do not inhale or exhale.  Trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen by a chemical process called photosynthesis — a process that is essential for life to exist on Earth.  

So when a video was posted on Facebook showing what looked like a forest floor inhaling and exhaling, it came as no surprise that over 3 million people watched the mysterious event.

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The phenomenon, captured by Brian Nuttall while taking a walk on October 31, shows the mossy forest floor rising and falling as if it were breathing.  Now we know that forests do not breathe in the typical sense, so what caused this to happen?  No, it is not zombies rising from the dead marking the start of the zombie apocalypse.  It is something much simpler but equally mesmerizing: the weather.

When a forest floor receives a lot of rain, the ground becomes very saturated and spongy.  In a saturated soil, tree roots are not held down as tightly, and if there are also strong winds, that can loosen the roots even further.

What happened on that day in Apple River was the combination of too much rain and very strong winds.  The area received a strong rain and windstorm with the wind “trying” to knock the trees down by pushing at the top or crown of the tree.  The roots of the trees have to resist this toppling force, and in doing so, the ground appears to rise and fall with each gust of strong wind.  The roots were just doing what’s natural by ensuring the tree stays standing.  If the winds remained strong and lasted long enough, the stress on the roots could be overwhelming, and they may start to break.  Eventually some of the trees would fall.

This is not the first time an event like this has occurred.  According to The Weather Network, a similar video was posted in September 2012 from Fort St. John, British Columbia, showing the roots of a tree heaving under the soil.

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