JERUSALEM, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Israeli researchers have discovered collaboration between trees deep in the ground, Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) in central Israel said Wednesday.
In their study, WIS researchers found underground intricate networks of fungi connecting the roots of different tree species with one another.
These networks enable the trees to exchange of minerals, nutrients, water and carbon, while funneling carbon to the fungi in return.
Symbiotic relationships between trees and fungi have been known for many years, but this is the first time that different tree species have been observed cooperating with one another using the fungi network in their natural setting.
By installing devices deep underground and employing next-generation sequencing techniques, the researchers analyzed over 1,000 root tips from 12 individuals of spruce, pine, larch and beech.
This way, they could quantify the amount of carbon being transferred between the trees, and identify the fungal species responsible.
It was also found that the sharing process is dominated by the fungi, as it is their interest to ensure that all the trees within the network are healthy and strong.
The findings show that mixing tree species in forests may build greater ecological resilience and stability.
Also, according to the researchers, the fungi's actions would be especially advantageous if a forest is subjected to such stressors as climate change, drought, fire or disease, making the forest to be a more resilient.
Thus, the scientists plan to induce conditions of drought in a small area to investigate the role of the fungi in the forest system when it is confronted with an ecological disturbance. Enditem