SYMBIOSIS

Fungi help trees hunt for food

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Science  12 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6300, pp. 661
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6300.661-a

Symbiotic root fungi help trees access nutrient “patches” in soil

PHOTO: EYE OF SCIENCE/SCIENCE SOURCE

Trees face a difficult paradox: how to access nutrients that are not uniformly spread throughout the soil while remaining stationary. Nearly all plant roots associate with symbiotic soil-dwelling fungi (either intracellular arbuscular mycorrhizal or extracellular ectomycorrhizal fungi), which aid in nutrient uptake. Chen et al. now report that mycorrhizae help trees forage. Tree species with finer roots that associate with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi produce more roots when they encounter a nutrient patch, and those that associate with ectomycorrhizal fungi produce more fungal hyphae. Moreover, trees in mixed woodlands probably have complementary foraging strategies by virtue of their differing symbionts, likely contributing to tree diversity in temperate forests.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1601006113 (2016).

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