A forester from Bancroft, Ont., says the province could be doing much more to deal with an insidious disease that’s killing beech trees across Ontario.
Svetlana Zeran called in to CBC’s Ontario Today Monday to say beech bark disease is a major concern on the nearly 400,000 hectares of forest her company manages.
“We have been dealing with beech bark disease for about a decade,” Zeran said. “Now that it is here on the [Canadian] Shield, it is moving very rapidly and we are seeing the disease come in and infect the trees and they are dead within two to five years.”
The disease begins when an insect bores holes in the bark, allowing a red fungus to invade the tree and slowly weaken it from the inside out.
Source: Tree disease leaving ‘zombie forest’ in its wake, expert warns – CBC News, 2018-11-14
In the Microbial Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the incredibly efficient eating habits of a fungus-cultivating termite are surprising even to those well acquainted with the insect’s natural gift for turning wood to dust.
According to a study published today (April 17, 2017) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, when poplar wood undergoes a short, 3.5-hour transit through the gut of the termite, the emerging feces is almost devoid of lignin, the hard and abundant polymer that gives plant cells walls their sturdiness. As lignin is notorious for being difficult to degrade, and remains a costly obstacle for wood processing industries such as biofuels and paper, the termite is the keeper of a highly sought after secret: a natural system for fully breaking down biomass.
“The speed and efficiency with which the termite is breaking down the lignin polymer is totally unexpected,” says John Ralph, a UW-Madison professor of biochemistry, researcher at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) and lignin expert. “The tantalizing implication is that this gut system holds keys to breaking down lignin using processes that are completely unknown.”
Source: Termite gut holds a secret to breaking down plant biomass – EurekAlert! Science News, 2017-04-17
Ecologist Suzanne Simard shares how she discovered that trees use underground fungi networks to communicate and share resources, uprooting the idea that nature constantly competes for survival.
About Suzanne Simard:
Suzanne Simard is a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia. Her work demonstrated that these complex, symbiotic networks in our forests mimic our own neural and social networks. She has thirty years of experience studying the forests of Canada.
Source: Suzanne Simard: How Do Trees Collaborate? : NPR, 2017-01-13
A new paper published Jan. 13 in Science reveals that the relationship between soil fungi and tree seedlings is more complicated than previously known. The paper was co-written by Ylva Lekberg, an assistant professor of soil community ecology at the University of Montana.
Lekberg and her collaborators studied 55 species and 550 populations of North American trees. Scientists have long known that plants and soil biota can regulate one another, but the new findings highlight the complexity of the feedback loop.
“Fungi differ in their ability to protect tree seedlings from pathogens, and this has implications for seedling recruitment and therefore forest community patterns,” Lekberg said.
Most plant roots are colonized by mycorrhizal fungi, but tree species associate with different fungal groups. The researchers showed that ectomycorrhizal fungi that form a thick sheet around root tips are better able to protect trees from pathogens than arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.
Thus, while ectomycorrhizal tree seedlings actually prefer growing next to parent trees, arbuscular mycorrhizal tree seedlings can only establish outside the control of parents’ enemies. This can have consequences for how temperate forests are structured and their overall diversity.
Source: Soil fungi help tree seedlings survive, influence forest diversity — ScienceDaily, 2017-01-13
Release by University of Exeter
Ash trees which can resist the killer dieback fungus may be more vulnerable to attacks by insects, according to new research.
Scientists from the universities of Exeter and Warwick examined trees which are resistant to ash dieback and – unexpectedly – found they had very low levels of chemicals which defend against insects.
With efforts under way to protect ash trees from dieback, the scientists warn that selecting trees for fungal resistance could put them at risk from insects.
Aside from ash dieback, the other major threat to European ash trees is the Emerald Ash Borer beetle, which has already devastated vast tracts of ash in the USA and is currently spreading westwards across Europe.
Source: Ash dieback: Insect threat to fungus-resistant trees | EurekAlert! Science News