Navigation Links
Fungi-filled forests are critical for endangered orchids

When it comes to conserving the world's orchids, not all forests are equal. In a paper to be published Jan. 25 in the journal Molecular Ecology, Smithsonian ecologists revealed that an orchid's fate hinges on two factors: a forest's age and its fungi.

Roughly 10 percent of all plant species are orchids, making them the largest plant family on Earth. But habitat loss has rendered many threatened or endangered. This is partly due to their intimate relationship with the soil.

Orchids depend entirely on microscopic fungi in the early stages of their lives. Without the nutrients orchids obtain by digesting these host fungi, their seeds often will not germinate and baby orchids will not grow. While researchers have known about the orchidfungus relationship for years, very little is known about what the fungi need to survive.

Biologists based at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center launched the first study to find out what helps the fungi flourish and what that means for orchids. Led by Melissa McCormick, the researchers looked at three orchid species, all endangered in one or more U.S. states.

After planting orchid seeds in dozens of experimental plots, they also added particular host fungi needed by each orchid to half the plots. Then they followed the fate of the orchids and fungi in six study sites: three in younger forests (50 to 70 years old) and three in older forests (120 to 150 years old).

After four years they discovered orchid seeds germinated only where the fungi they needed were abundantnot merely present.

In the case of one species, Liparis liliifolia (lily-leaved twayblade), seeds germinated only in plots where the team had added fungi. This suggests that this particular orchid could survive in many places, but the fungi they need do not exist in most areas of the forest.

Meanwhile, the fungi displayed a strong preference for older forests.

Soil samples taken from older forest plots had host fungi that were five to 12 times more abundant compared to younger forests, even where the research team had not added them. They were more diverse as well. More mature plots averaged 3.6 different Tulasnella fungi species per soil sample (a group of fungi beneficial to these orchids), while the younger ones averaged only 1.3.

Host fungi were also more abundant in plots where rotting wood was added. These host fungi, which are primarily decomposers, may grow better in places where decomposing wood or leaves are plentiful.

All this implies that to save endangered orchids, planting new forests may not be enough. If the forests are not old enough or do not have enough of the right fungi, lost orchids may take decades to return, if they return at all.

"This study, for the first time, ties orchid performance firmly to the abundance of their fungi," McCormick said. "It reveals the way to determine what conditions host fungi need, so we can support recovery of the fungi needed by threatened and endangered orchids."

Contact: Kristen Minogue

Related biology news :

1. Satellite data shows that Kirtlands warblers prefer forests after fire
2. Forests cooler or warmer than open areas depending on latitude, study finds
3. Holm oaks will gain ground in northern forests due to climate change
4. Tropical forests are fertilized by air pollution
5. Savannas, forests in a battle of the biomes, Princeton researchers find
6. Forests not keeping pace with climate change
7. Production of biofuel from forests will increase greenhouse emissions
8. U-M ecologist: Future forests may soak up more carbon dioxide than previously believed
9. Managing future forests for water
10. What makes rainforests unique? History, not ecology
11. Restoring forests and planting trees on farms can greatly improve food security
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Fungi-filled forests are critical for endangered orchids
(Date:11/16/2015)... JOSE, Calif. , Nov 16, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... developer of human interface solutions, today announced expansion ... Synaptics TouchView ™ touch controller and display ... architectural revolution of smartphones. These new TDDI products ... include TD4100 (HD resolution), TD4302 (WQHD resolution), and ...
(Date:11/10/2015)... LONDON , Nov. 10, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... segmented on the basis of product, type, ... segments included in this report are consumables, ... this report are safety biomarkers, efficacy biomarkers, ... in this report are diagnostics development, drug ...
(Date:11/2/2015)... 2, 2015  SRI International has been awarded a ... development services to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) PREVENT ... scientific expertise, modern testing and support facilities, and analytical ... and toxicology studies to evaluate potential cancer prevention drugs. ... PREVENT Cancer Drug Development Program is an NCI-supported pipeline ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015 --> ... report released by Transparency Market Research, the global non-invasive ... CAGR of 17.5% during the period between 2014 and ... Global Industry Analysis, Size, Volume, Share, Growth, Trends and ... testing market to reach a valuation of US$2.38 bn ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... InSphero AG, the leading supplier of easy-to-use ... promoted Melanie Aregger to serve as Chief Operating Officer. , Having joined ... management team and was promoted to Head of InSphero Diagnostics in 2014. ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015  PDL BioPharma, Inc. (PDL) (NASDAQ: PDLI ) ... president and chief executive officer, will present at the 27 ... New York City . The presentation will ... 2015 at 9:30 a.m. EST. and ... at least 15 minutes prior to the presentation to allow ...
(Date:11/23/2015)... THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Nov. 23, 2015   Ceres, ... company, announced today financial results for the fiscal year ... its business. --> --> ... on commercializing forage and feed products with a better ... the company signed distribution agreements with several leading crop ...
Breaking Biology Technology: