Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Bacteria Living on Old-Growth Trees May Help Forests Grow

Bacteria living on old-growth trees may help forests grow

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:

Web page:
Lab blog:
Katherine Gombay
Media Relations
McGill University

Katherine Gombay | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht “How trees coexist” – new findings from biodiversity research published in Nature Communications
21.03.2018 | Technische Universität Dresden

nachricht Earlier flowering of modern winter wheat cultivars
20.03.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

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: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>