Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fungus-enhanced plants popular with grasshoppers

06.08.2002


The prairie may appear to be a simple, rather plain scene at first glance. Gail Wilson knows better.



The tallgrass prairie teems with life. Fungi, plants and insects interact with each other in crucial ways scientists are trying to understand.

Wilson, a research associate in the Division of Biology at Kansas State University, David Hartnett, biology professor and director of the Konza Prairie Biological Station, and graduate student Abigail Kula, of Omaha, Neb., conducted a study showing that grasshoppers prefer plants with a fungal symbiosis. They are presenting the results of their study at the Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting this week in Tucson, Ariz.


Fungi called mycorrhizae live in the root systems of nearly all land-based plants. The fungus is not dangerous. In fact, it gives nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen to the plant, while the plant feeds the fungus with life-giving carbon. The mutually beneficial relationship is called symbiosis. Plants in the tallgrass prairie will not grow without the fungus, which also help the plants live through drought and disease.

The researchers found that grasshoppers, which feed on plants, are more likely to be found on plants with mycorrhizal symbiosis. Wilson said grasshoppers may prefer those plants because they have more nutrients than plants without mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizal plants are also larger.

"Mycorrhizal plants are tolerant of damage and respond quickly to a moderate amount of grazing. We wanted to find out if grasshoppers favor mycorrhizal plants over plants without the symbiosis. The grasshoppers may prevent mycorrhizal plants from recovering if they cause more damage to these plants," Wilson said.

Wilson said the study brought prairie research closer to nature than previous studies, which have been conducted on single plant species. The K-State study was performed with a group of prairie plants grown together. The grasshoppers had the ability to choose between plant species and also between plants with and without the fungi.

"Other studies focus on one plant at a time. We focus on eight native tallgrass prairie plants," Kula said.

Though mycorrhizae are certainly not an endangered species, Wilson said scientists need to learn everything they can about this crucial part of the ecosystem.

All but 1 percent of America’s original tallgrass prairie has been destroyed. Ecologists trying to restore native grasslands may need to inoculate new plants with mycorrhizae. The fungus tends to be less abundant in agricultural sites, because the plants receive all the nutrients they need from fertilizers. But mycorrhizae might play a critical role in soil health that fertilizers do not.

"We’re not sure what eliminating the dependence of plants on the fungi does to the soil," Wilson said. "In sites where man has changed the soil, we’d like to know how critical mycorrhizae is."


###
The study was funded by a National Science Foundation grant

Gail Wilson | EurekAlert!

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers

26.06.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

New research reveals impact of seismic surveys on zooplankton

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Correct connections are crucial

26.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>