During Christmas time people exchange traditionally kisses under mistletoes. While mistletoes are welcome in private, they may not if populating trees in vast numbers. Scientists of Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI) in Braunschweig demonstrated that the semiparasite indicates heavy metal contamination of soils.
The proliferation of mistletoes is related to many factors such as the abundance of host trees, bird species which feed on the berries and distribute them in the environment, microclimate and last but not least individual resistance mechanisms of the host tree. The resistance of trees is reduced on soils which are polluted with heavy metals. Scientists of the Institute for Crop and Soil Science proved only recently in an extended study that in particular poplars are colonised by mistletoes and this in distinctly higher numbers than for instance maple and lime tree.
Ewald Schnug reports that "In the Goslar region in the Harz mountain soils are contaminated with lead, copper and zinc because of its mining history. On soils with a low pollution 9% and on highly contaminated sites 49% of all poplar trees are infested by mistletoes". He further denotes that mistletoes were found more often on black poplar than Lombardy poplar. The scientists provided evidence that an increasing infestation of trees by mistletoes indicate heavy metal contamination of soils. Based on their research which started in 2003, the scientists started to develop a procedure for sensing soil contamination by employing poplars and their mistletoe infestation index as indicators.
Stefanie Hahn | idw
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