According to the study published in the journal Nature, it has been found that most of the tree fungi communities are affected by pollution taking around 13,000 soil samples from 20 European countries. As pollution hits fungi, the current pollution limits may not be strict enough to protect the forest fungi, say researchers. Thus signs of tree malnutrition, discoloration, and missing leaves, have been seen across Europe’s forests.
If we care about the condition of our forests, what shape they’re in we can’t just look above (the ground), there is an alarming trend of tree malnutrition across Europe, which leaves forests vulnerable to pests, disease and climate change.- Dr Martin Bidartondo, Department of life sciences at Imperial College London and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
The fungi, known as mycorrhizal fungi, live on the roots of the trees, providing them with nutrients from the soil. They can live for decades beneath the surface, growing to several square meters in size, receiving carbon from the tree in exchange for essential nutrients, like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, which they take up from the soil.
This plant-fungal is beneficial for the tree’s health, and recent studies have found that local air and soil quality greatly impact mycorrhizal, thus causing signs of malnutrition across Europe. “Trees are in need of these fungi to get nutrients and water from the soil which are being affected by pollution and we need to be aware of it,”- said Dr. Laura M Suz of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a co-researcher on the study.
These effects can bring about changes in the ecosystem which can negatively affect the tree’s health as for example, due to some of the community changes, there might be more parasitic mycorrhizae that will take carbon from the tree but will give back little in nutrients.
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The researchers are on their way to finding results through these large-scale studies. They are in search to find a link between pollution, soil, mycorrhizae, tree growth, and tree health.