Alpine fungi may yield new industrial enzymes and some that make it easier to wash clothes in cold water, she said. Europeans stabilize their ski slopes by adding alpine fungi to the roots of plants.
Cripps received a National Science Foundation grant in 2000 to study alpine fungi in the Rocky Mountains. Cripps said that when she wrote the grant, arctic-alpine ecology was well-known in other areas of the world, but not in the Rockies.
"No one had gone above tree line to look," Cripps said.
Egon Horak from the Institute of Integrative Biology in Zurich, Switzerland, one of the world's best arctic-alpine mycologists according to Cripps and co-host of the Montana conference, said arctic-alpine fungi are widely distributed in cold climate regions, particularly in the northern hemisphere. They are threatened by global warming, however.
The fungi are "earmarked to become extinct unless they have the opportunity to migrate into ecologically adequate sites at higher elevation," Horak said in an e-mail.
Some of the fungi the scientists gathered in the Beartooths came to MSU to be dried, described and examined more closely. Other collections went to herbaria worldwide. Findings from each of the ISAM scientists will be published in the "Journal of North American Fungi," Cripps said. The fungi and its genetic material will be stored at MSU, where they are available to researchers from all over the world.
|Contact: Evelyn Boswell|
Montana State University