Photo credit: Phys-Org
Gehring conducting field research in a pinyon research plot. Credit: Thomas Whitham
Fungi—key to tree survival in warming forest
Much like healthy bacteria in one’s gut supports health of the human body, fungus in soil can be integral to survival of trees. NAU researcher Catherine Gehring reached this conclusion while studying pinyon-juniper woodlands in northern Arizona, which support nearly 1,000 unique species.
“Just like the human microbiome, plants have a micro biome. It just tends to be fungi instead of bacteria,” Gehring said. “Every tissue of a plant that you look at has fungi inside of it and we are trying to figure out what they do and if they are going to be important for allowing plants to survive climate change.”
Along with a team of researchers, Gehring is studying pinyon pine trees and their susceptibility to severe drought conditions. While many tree species become vulnerable to insects during drought conditions, Gehring’s team discovered a twist: the pinyons that were insect-resistant were not surviving the drought.
“That group of trees had 60 percent mortality and the group susceptible to insects had only 20 percent mortality,” Gehring said.
Read the full article: Phys-Org