Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bacteria living on old-growth trees 
may help forests grow

24.02.2011
Biology researchers discover that bacteria living in mosses on tree branches twice as effective at ‘fixing’ nitrogen as those on the ground

A new study by Dr. Zoë Lindo, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at McGill University, and Jonathan Whiteley, a doctoral student in the same department, shows that large, ancient trees may be very important in helping forests grow.

These findings highlight the importance of maintaining the large old-growth trees in the coastal temperate rainforests that stretch from Southern Alaska to Northern California. Lindo’s findings suggest that it is the interactions between old trees, mosses and cyanobacteria, which contribute to nutrient dynamics in a way that may actually sustain the long-term productivity of these forests.

“What we’re doing is putting large old trees into a context where they’re an integral part of what a forest is,” says Dr. Lindo. “These large old trees are doing something: they’re providing habitat for something that provides habitat for something else that’s fertilizing the forest. It’s like a domino effect; it’s indirect but without the first step, without the trees, none of it could happen.”

There are three players in this story: 1) large, old trees; 2) mosses that grow along their branches; and 3) a group of bacteria called cyanobacteria associated with the mosses. The cyanobacteria take nitrogen from the atmosphere and make it available to plants–a process called “nitrogen fixation” that very few organisms can do.

The growth and development of many forests is thought to be limited by the availability of nitrogen. Cyanobacteria in mosses on the ground were recently shown to supply nitrogen to the Boreal forest, but until now cyanobacteria have not been studied in coastal forests or in canopies (tree-tops). By collecting mosses on the forest floor and then at 15 and 30 metres up into the forest canopy, Lindo was able to show both that the cyanobacteria are more abundant in mosses high above the ground, and that they “fix” twice as much nitrogen as those associated with mosses on the forest floor.

Moss is the crucial element. The amount of nitrogen coming from the canopy depends on trees having mosses.

“You need trees that are large enough and old enough to start accumulating mosses before you can have the cyanobacteria that are associated with the mosses,” Lindo said. “Many trees don’t start to accumulate mosses until they’re more than 100 years old. So it’s really the density of very large old trees that are draped in moss that is important at a forest stand level. We surveyed trees that are estimated as being between 500 and 800 years old.”

The research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

For an abstract of the article: http://www.springerlink.com/content/e651740234037w62/

Web page: http://biology.mcgill.ca/grad/zoe/index.html

Lab blog: http://www.ecodrift.blogspot.com/

Katherine Gombay | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mcgill.ca

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Cascading use is also beneficial for wood
11.12.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht The future of crop engineering
08.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells

13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cellular Self-Digestion Process Triggers Autoimmune Disease

13.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>