Navigation Links
Study: Grass, fungus combination affects ecology
Date:3/15/2010

HOUSTON -- (March 15, 2010) -- The popular forage and turf grass called tall fescue covers a vast amount of land in the U.S. -- an area that's estimated to be larger than Virginia and Maryland combined -- and a new study by ecologists at Rice University and Indiana University suggests there is more to fescue than meets the eye.

Results of the six-year study, which are available online in the Journal of Applied Ecology, show that a symbiotic fungus living inside fescue can have far-reaching effects on plant, animal and insect communities.

"Competition and environment have traditionally been seen as the driving forces for community dynamics, so it's significant to see that the composition and diversity of a plant community can be affected by changing a few genes in an invisible fungus inside one species of grass," said study co-author Jennifer Rudgers, Rice's Godwin Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "This suggests that cooperative microorganisms should not be overlooked as significant contributors to ecological diversity."

Tall fescue is hearty, low-maintenance and stays green year-round, which makes it a favorite for home lawns, golf courses and highway rights-of-way across the U.S. But fescue, which is native to Europe and North Africa, can also be highly invasive in North America. It can also sicken livestock, thanks to a symbiotic fungus called Neotyphodium coenophialum. The fungus and fescue have a mutually beneficial relationship. The fungus lives inside the plant, where it gets shelter and food, and in return it laces the plant's leaves with toxic alkaloids that are a turnoff to some plant-eating animals.

In 2002, Rudgers and Indiana University ecologist Keith Clay, a study co-author, selected 42 grassland plots, each about 1,000 square feet, at the Indiana University Research and Teaching Preserve north of Bloomington, Ind. The researchers selected two varieties of fescue called Georgia-5 and Jesup, and two varieties of the fungus, called KY-31 and AR-542. KY-31 is a common variety that produces alkaloids that are toxic to mammals, and AR-542 naturally lacks these alkaloids. Additionally, some plots were planted with grass and no fungus.

Over the next six years, the team returned to the plots several times. The investigation was painstaking. In randomly selected areas, the researchers counted individual flowers, cataloged the number and species of every plant and even counted the number of stems of grass that had been gnawed by plant-eating voles.

The investigation offered specific results for conservation managers: Jesup with either fungus works best for maintaining a fescue monoculture; and if a symbiotic fungus is desirable, the combination of Georgia-5 and AR-542 supports maximum plant diversity and minimal invasiveness.

The study also suggested that the ecological effects of plant-microbe symbiosis aren't easy to predict. For example, the researchers found that voles were less likely to eat fescue that contained either fungus, including the AR-542 variety, which lacks mammal-toxic alkaloids.

"That indicates that plant-microbe symbioses have complex ecological effects," said Clay, professor of biology and director of the Indiana University Research and Teaching Preserve. "It signals the need for more investigations of the long-term effects of cooperative symbiosis."


'/>"/>

Contact: Jade Boyd
jadeboyd@rice.edu
713-348-6778
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Study: Climate change one factor in malaria spread
2. Study: Gene therapy reverses effects of lethal childhood muscle disorder in mice
3. Study: Crickets forewarn unborn babies about spiders
4. New UC Davis study: Climate tipping points may arrive without warning, says top forecaster
5. New study: Human running speeds of 35 to 40 mph may be biologically possible
6. Study: Sea stars bulk up to beat the heat
7. UF study: Exercise improves body image for fit and unfit alike
8. UNC study: Color-coded chart improves parents understanding of body mass index
9. Study: Popular supplement quercetin does not enhance athletic performance
10. Study: Oil speculators dominate open interest in oil futures
11. Study: Smoking may worsen malnutrition in developing nations
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:10/4/2017)... Oct. 4, 2017  GCE Solutions, a global clinical research organization ... document anonymization solution on October 4, 2017. Shadow is designed to ... comply with policy 0070 of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in ... ... ...
(Date:7/20/2017)... , July 20, 2017 Delta (NYSE: DAL ) ... any Delta aircraft at Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). ... Delta launches biometrics to board ... Delta,s biometric boarding ... Club is now integrated into the boarding process to allow eligible ...
(Date:6/14/2017)... IBM ) is introducing several innovative partner startups at ... between startups and global businesses, taking place in ... startups will showcase the solutions they have built with IBM ... France is one of the most ... increase in the number of startups created between 2012 and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... At its ... announced Dr. Suneel I. Sheikh, the co-founder, CEO and chief research scientist of ... been selected for membership in ARCS Alumni Hall of Fame . ASTER ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... BALTIMORE, Md. (PRWEB) , ... October 11, 2017 ... ... for digital pathology, announced today it will be hosting a Webinar titled, “Pathology ... of  Advanced Pathology Associates , on digital pathology adoption best practices and how ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... A ... pregnancy rates in frozen and fresh in vitro fertilization (IVF) transfer ... age to IVF success. , After comparing the results from the fresh and ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... PA (PRWEB) , ... October 10, 2017 , ... ... City Science Center’s FirstHand program has won a US2020 STEM Mentoring Award. Representatives ... the award for Excellence in Volunteer Experience from US2020. , US2020’s mission is ...
Breaking Biology Technology: