Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Symbiosis or capitalism? A new view of forest fungi


A new study suggests that symbiotic relationships between trees and the mycorrhyzae that grow in their roots may not be as mutually beneficial as previously thought.

The so-called symbiotic relationship between trees and the fungus that grow on their roots may actually work more like a capitalist market relationship between buyers and sellers, according to the new study published in the journal New Phytologist.

Recent experiments in the forests of Sweden had brought into a question a long-held theory of biology: that the fungi or mycorrhizae that grow on tree roots work with trees in a symbiotic relationship that is beneficial for both the fungi and the trees, providing needed nutrients to both parties. These fungi, including many edible mushrooms, are particularly common in boreal forests with scarce nutrients. But in contrast to the current paradigm, the new research shows that they may be the cause rather than the cure for the nutrient scarcity.

In the recent experiments, researchers found that rather than alleviating nutrient limitations in soil, the root fungi maintain that limitation, by transferring less nitrogen to the trees when nutrients are scarce than when they are abundant in the soil.

The new study, led by IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management researcher Oskar Franklin in collaboration with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, used a theoretical model to explain the new experimental findings, by simulating the interaction between individual fungus and plant. It suggests that since each organism competes with others in trading nutrients such as carbon and nitrogen, the system as a whole may function more like a capitalistic market economy than a cooperative symbiotic relationship. The competition among trees makes them export excessive amounts of carbon to the fungi, which seize a lot of soil nutrients.

“The new theory pictures a more business-like relationship among multiple buyers and sellers connected in a network. Having multiple symbiotic trading-partners generates competition among both the fungi and the plants, where each individual trades carbon for nutrients or vice versa to maximize profits, not unlike a capitalistic market economy,” says Franklin.

“Although doing business with fungi is a good deal from each tree’s own point of view it traps the whole forest in nutrient limitation,” he says.

Understanding boreal forest nutrient cycles is incredibly important for modeling climate change, because it influences how much carbon dioxide these regions can absorb, as well as how they are influenced by the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Franklin says, “This syndrome is aggravated by rising CO2. As more carbon becomes available to the trees, the limitation of nitrogen generated by mycorrhizae becomes even more important, possibly eliminating or even reversing the expected CO2 fertilization effect in boreal forest.”

Franklin O, Näsholm T, Högberg P, Högberg MN. 2014. Forests trapped in nitrogen limitation: an ecological market perspective on ectomycorrhizal symbiosis. New Phytologist. DOI: 10.1111/nph.12840
Näsholm T, Högberg P, Franklin O, Metcalfe D, Keel SG, Campbell C, Hurry V, Linder S, Högberg MN. 2013. Are ectomycorrhizal fungi alleviating or aggravating nitrogen limitation of tree growth in boreal forests? New Phytologist 198(1): 214-221.

For more information please contact:

Oskar Franklin
Research Scholar
Ecosystems Services and Management
Tel: +43(0) 2236 807 251

Katherine Leitzell
IIASA Press Office
Tel: +43 2236 807 316
Mob: +43 676 83 807 316

About IIASA:
IIASA is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policy makers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by scientific institutions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Europe.

Weitere Informationen:

Katherine Leitzell | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Analysis IIASA capitalism experiments forests fungi fungus nitrogen nutrient nutrients symbiotic

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Locusts at the wheel: University of Graz investigates collision detector inspired by insect eyes
07.10.2015 | Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz

nachricht Flipping molecular attachments amps up activity of CO2 catalyst
06.10.2015 | DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Kick-off for a new era of precision astronomy

The MICADO camera, a first light instrument for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), has entered a new phase in the project: by agreeing to a Memorandum of Understanding, the partners in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, and Italy, have all confirmed their participation. Following this milestone, the project's transition into its preliminary design phase was approved at a kick-off meeting held in Vienna. Two weeks earlier, on September 18, the consortium and the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which is building the telescope, have signed the corresponding collaboration agreement.

As the first dedicated camera for the E-ELT, MICADO will equip the giant telescope with a capability for diffraction-limited imaging at near-infrared...

Im Focus: Locusts at the wheel: University of Graz investigates collision detector inspired by insect eyes

Self-driving cars will be on our streets in the foreseeable future. In Graz, research is currently dedicated to an innovative driver assistance system that takes over control if there is a danger of collision. It was nature that inspired Dr Manfred Hartbauer from the Institute of Zoology at the University of Graz: in dangerous traffic situations, migratory locusts react around ten times faster than humans. Working together with an interdisciplinary team, Hartbauer is investigating an affordable collision detector that is equipped with artificial locust eyes and can recognise potential crashes in time, during both day and night.

Inspired by insects

Im Focus: Physicists shrink particle accelerator

Prototype demonstrates feasibility of building terahertz accelerators

An interdisciplinary team of researchers has built the first prototype of a miniature particle accelerator that uses terahertz radiation instead of radio...

Im Focus: Simple detection of magnetic skyrmions

New physical effect: researchers discover a change of electrical resistance in magnetic whirls

At present, tiny magnetic whirls – so called skyrmions – are discussed as promising candidates for bits in future robust and compact data storage devices. At...

Im Focus: High-speed march through a layer of graphene

In cooperation with the Center for Nano-Optics of Georgia State University in Atlanta (USA), scientists of the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität have made simulations of the processes that happen when a layer of carbon atoms is irradiated with strong laser light.

Electrons hit by strong laser pulses change their location on ultrashort timescales, i.e. within a couple of attoseconds (1 as = 10 to the minus 18 sec). In...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

EHFG 2015: Securing healthcare and sustainably strengthening healthcare systems

01.10.2015 | Event News

Conference in Brussels: Tracking and Tracing the Smallest Marine Life Forms

30.09.2015 | Event News

World Alzheimer`s Day – Professor Willnow: Clearer Insights into the Development of the Disease

17.09.2015 | Event News

Latest News

IP-cores for real-time signal processing in digital communication systems

07.10.2015 | Information Technology

Research initiative presents new traffic technologies for cities

07.10.2015 | Transportation and Logistics

Kick-off for a new era of precision astronomy

07.10.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>