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:
Ecosystems Services and Management
Tel: +43(0) 2236 807 251
IIASA Press Office
Tel: +43 2236 807 316
Mob: +43 676 83 807 316
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. www.iiasa.ac.at
Katherine Leitzell | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Discovery of a fundamental limit to the evolution of the genetic code
03.05.2016 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)
03.05.2016 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Using an ultra fast-scanning atomic force microscope, a team of researchers from the University of Basel has filmed “living” nuclear pore complexes at work for the first time. Nuclear pores are molecular machines that control the traffic entering or exiting the cell nucleus. In their article published in Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers explain how the passage of unwanted molecules is prevented by rapidly moving molecular “tentacles” inside the pore.
Using high-speed AFM, Roderick Lim, Argovia Professor at the Biozentrum and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute of the University of Basel, has not only directly...
If a person pushes a broken-down car alone, there is a certain effect. If another person helps, the result is the sum of their efforts. If two micro-particles are pushing another microparticle, however, the resulting effect may not necessarily be the sum their efforts. A recent study published in Nature Communications, measured this odd effect that scientists call “many body.”
In the microscopic world, where the modern miniaturized machines at the new frontiers of technology operate, as long as we are in the presence of two...
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute Stuttgart have developed self-propelled tiny ‘microbots’ that can remove lead or organic pollution from contaminated water.
Working with colleagues in Barcelona and Singapore, Samuel Sánchez’s group used graphene oxide to make their microscale motors, which are able to adsorb lead...
Neutron scattering and computational modeling have revealed unique and unexpected behavior of water molecules under extreme confinement that is unmatched by any known gas, liquid or solid states.
In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory describe a new tunneling state of...
Honeycomb structures as the basic building block for industrial applications presented using holo pyramid
Researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) will introduce their latest developments in the field of bionic lightweight design at Hannover Messe from 25...
27.04.2016 | Event News
15.04.2016 | Event News
12.04.2016 | Event News
03.05.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
03.05.2016 | Life Sciences
03.05.2016 | Physics and Astronomy