Some fungi and bacteria live in close association, or symbiosis, with tree roots in forest soil to obtain mutual benefits.
Some fungi and bacteria live in close association, or symbiosis, with tree roots in forest soil to obtain mutual benefits. The microorganisms help trees access water and nutrients from the atmosphere or soil, sequester carbon, and withstand the effects of climate change. In exchange, they receive carbohydrates, which are essential to their development and are produced by the trees during photosynthesis.
More than 200 scientists from several countries, including 14 from Brazil, collaborated to map the global distribution of these root symbioses and further the understanding of their vital role in forest ecosystems. They identified factors that determine where different kinds of symbionts may emerge and estimated the impact of climate change on tree-root symbiotic relationships and hence on forest growth.
They concluded that the majority of ectomycorrhizal trees will decline by as much as 10% if emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) proceed unabated until 2070, especially in cooler parts of the planet. Ectomycorrhizae are a form of symbiotic relationship that occurs between fungal symbionts and the roots of various plant species.
The authors of the study, featured on the cover of the May 16 issue of Nature, included Brazilian researchers Carlos Joly and Simone Aparecida Vieira, both professors at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) and coordinators of the FAPESP Research Program on Biodiversity Characterization, Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use (BIOTA-FAPESP), as well as plant ecologist Luciana Ferreira Alves, now at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the United States.