To a casual hiker, one bit of North American forest may seem like any other. But look more closely and a mysterious patchwork of diversity emerges. Some stands of forest are clearly dominated by a single kind of tree. Others are a diverse mix of species.
Now, a multiyear effort to understand these differences has uncovered a surprising answer. What controls forest diversity is not the trees but the fungi that interact with them, typically at microscopic scales, below ground and out of sight. The result offers a new window on the complex interactions that underlie some of the most familiar ecosystems on the continent and could lead to improved forest-management practices.
“I find it quite amazing that these organisms that we can’t see can have such a profound effect,” said John Klironomos, a plant ecologist at the University of British Columbia who led the effort. read more >>