Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fungi-filled forests are critical for endangered orchids

25.01.2012
Older forests with just the right fungi may be secret to saving vulnerable plants

When it comes to conserving the world's orchids, not all forests are equal. In a paper to be published Jan. 25 in the journal Molecular Ecology, Smithsonian ecologists revealed that an orchid's fate hinges on two factors: a forest's age and its fungi.

Roughly 10 percent of all plant species are orchids, making them the largest plant family on Earth. But habitat loss has rendered many threatened or endangered. This is partly due to their intimate relationship with the soil.

Orchids depend entirely on microscopic fungi in the early stages of their lives. Without the nutrients orchids obtain by digesting these host fungi, their seeds often will not germinate and baby orchids will not grow. While researchers have known about the orchid–fungus relationship for years, very little is known about what the fungi need to survive.

Biologists based at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center launched the first study to find out what helps the fungi flourish and what that means for orchids. Led by Melissa McCormick, the researchers looked at three orchid species, all endangered in one or more U.S. states.

After planting orchid seeds in dozens of experimental plots, they also added particular host fungi needed by each orchid to half the plots. Then they followed the fate of the orchids and fungi in six study sites: three in younger forests (50 to 70 years old) and three in older forests (120 to 150 years old).

After four years they discovered orchid seeds germinated only where the fungi they needed were abundant—not merely present.

In the case of one species, Liparis liliifolia (lily-leaved twayblade), seeds germinated only in plots where the team had added fungi. This suggests that this particular orchid could survive in many places, but the fungi they need do not exist in most areas of the forest.

Meanwhile, the fungi displayed a strong preference for older forests.

Soil samples taken from older forest plots had host fungi that were five to 12 times more abundant compared to younger forests, even where the research team had not added them. They were more diverse as well. More mature plots averaged 3.6 different Tulasnella fungi species per soil sample (a group of fungi beneficial to these orchids), while the younger ones averaged only 1.3.

Host fungi were also more abundant in plots where rotting wood was added. These host fungi, which are primarily decomposers, may grow better in places where decomposing wood or leaves are plentiful.

All this implies that to save endangered orchids, planting new forests may not be enough. If the forests are not old enough or do not have enough of the right fungi, lost orchids may take decades to return, if they return at all.

"This study, for the first time, ties orchid performance firmly to the abundance of their fungi," McCormick said. "It reveals the way to determine what conditions host fungi need, so we can support recovery of the fungi needed by threatened and endangered orchids."

The University of Alaska Fairbanks and Purdue University also contributed to this study. The abstract will be available here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05468.x/abstract

Kristen Minogue | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.si.edu
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05468.x/abstract

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electrode materials from the microwave oven

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

New material for digital memories of the future

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>