Navigation Links
Arctic snow harbors deadly assassin
Date:6/19/2011

Heavy and prolonged snowfall can bring about unexpected conditions that encourage fungal growth, leading to the death of plants in the Arctic, according to experts.

A new international study confirms that whilst snow has an insulating effect which helps plants to grow bigger, heavy and prolonged snow can, in certain circumstances, also encourage the rapid and extensive growth of killer fungal strains.

The research results, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, show for the first time the potential long term effects of unexpected fungal development on an arctic landscape. Extensive damage to a pervasive species under snowier conditions would leave gaps for another plant to take its place over time but could also alter the foodweb for insects, voles, lemmings and their predators.

Co-author of the report, Dr. Robert Baxter, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Durham University, said: "We were surprised to find that this extremely hardy tundra vegetation was killed off by fungal attack.

"In the first few years, as expected, the insulating effect of the snow helped the vegetation to grow, but after six years a tipping point was reached where the fungus spread with great speed and destroyed the plants.

"We need to look more carefully in the future at longer term vegetation and fungus life cycles to see if this is something that could recur and be more destructive over time."

The research team from Durham University, UK; Ume University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden; and the Finnish Forest Research Institute, compared the effects of normal snowfall conditions and increased snow conditions on vegetation.

Researchers used snow fences to maintain increased snow conditions, and found that the fungus, Arwidssonia empetri, increased under heavier and prolonged snow cover killing the majority of the shoots of one of the dominant plant species in that area the dwarf shrub Empetrum hermaphroditum. The team's unexpected finding followed a decision to keep the experiment running longer than was originally planned.

The researchers believe that the findings highlight unforeseen elements that should be factored into future modelling of the impacts of climate change and its effects on vegetation and food-web chains.

Co-author of the report, Johan Olofsson, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Ume University, Sweden, said: "We set out to look at the effects of climate change and the potential of heavier precipitation and snowfall on plants and the processes that influence growth, decomposition and soil nutrients.

"Shrubs are an important part of the arctic vegetation and we did not expect to find a deadly species-to-species effect influenced by this manipulated snow accumulation."

Snow usually protects arctic plants through the long winter period as it maintains a warmer local environment around the overwintering plants and helps them to grow bigger and faster.

During the seven year experiment, the researchers observed steady plant growth under the protection of the snow's insulating blanket. In year six, the fungus spread rapidly, killing the plant and changing the vegetation from a natural carbon sink to a net carbon source.

Co-author of the report, Lars Ericson, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Ume University, Sweden, said: "We discovered some surprising interactions between plants and other organisms in an area that is very important for the world's climate. The results will enable us to have a better understanding of longer term climate change effects and extreme weather events, locally and regionally."


'/>"/>

Contact: Dionne Hamil
dionne.hamil@dur.ac.uk
44-191-334-6078
Durham University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Arctic sea ice thinning at record rate
2. FSU Historians Arctic research has him sitting on top of the world
3. First comprehensive inventory of life in Antarctica
4. ESA satellites focusing on the Arctic
5. Arctic heats up more than other places
6. Global warming threatens Antarctic sea life
7. Marine scientists to assess environment before offshore drilling begins in US arctic waters
8. CO2 drop and global cooling caused Antarctic glacier to form
9. Final frontier: Mission to explore buried ancient Antarctic lake given green light
10. UK robot sub searches for signs of melting 60 km into an Antarctic ice shelf cavity
11. Arctic governments and industry still unprepared for oil spills 20 years after Exxon Valdez
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/16/2016)... --  EyeLock LLC , a market leader of iris-based ... IoT Center of Excellence in Austin, Texas ... embedded iris biometric applications. EyeLock,s iris authentication ... with unmatched biometric accuracy, making it the most proven ... platform uses video technology to deliver a fast and ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... First quarter 2016:   , ... the first quarter of 2015 The gross margin was ... 18.8) and the operating margin was 40% (-13) Earnings ... flow from operations was SEK 249.9 M (21.2) , ... SEK 7,000-8,500 M. The operating margin for 2016 is ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... , April 15, 2016 ... "Global Gait Biometrics Market 2016-2020,"  report to their ... ) , ,The global gait biometrics market ... 13.98% during the period 2016-2020. Gait ... which can be used to compute factors that ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... , June 27, 2016  Sequenom, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... enabling healthier lives through the development of innovative products ... the United States denied its ... the claims of Sequenom,s U.S. Patent No. 6,258,540 (",540 ... criteria established by the Supreme Court,s Mayo Collaborative Services ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... -- Liquid Biotech USA , Inc. ... Research Agreement with The University of Pennsylvania ("PENN") ... patients.  The funding will be used to assess ... outcomes in cancer patients undergoing a variety of ... to support the design of a therapeutic, decision-making ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... 24, 2016 , ... Researchers at the Universita Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona ... or pleural mesothelioma. Their findings are the subject of a new article on the ... are signposts in the blood, lung fluid or tissue of mesothelioma patients that can ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Md. , June 23, 2016 A person ... from the crime scene to track the criminal down. ... the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses DNA evidence ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. The FDA ... sequencing to support investigations of foodborne illnesses. Put as simply ...
Breaking Biology Technology: