Plant-Killing Fungi Found to Preserve Rainforest Diversity

Plant-killing fungi: Fungi such as the netted stinkhorn (above) can help preserve diversity in ecosystems.

Voracious pests may be foes of individual plants, but they can benefit forests. A study in the humid rainforests of Belize shows that plant-killing fungi can help preserve diversity in such ecosystems.

The study, published today by Nature, provides experimental support for a leading ecological hypothesis on why any given plant species does not take over in species-rich forests. That proposal — the ‘Janzen–Connell hypothesis’ — posits that as the population of a plant species grows, so does the rate at which specialized pests dine on it. Those pests then keep dominant plants in check, giving other species room to flourish.

“The more common a plant is, the more aggressively it is attacked,” says Keith Clay, a plant ecologist at Indiana University in Bloomington, who was not involved with the study. “It’s a mechanism for maintaining diversity.”

Since the Janzen–Connell hypothesis was proposed more than 40 years ago, many research teams have gathered evidence that plant-munching insects and other predators keep populations of plant species in check. But few were able to establish that this mechanism also boosted plant diversity, says Clay.

Read the full story here.

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About jensera

Jennifer Harrington is a Toronto-based illustrator, writer and graphic designer. She illustrated the best-selling children’s book series 'A Moose in a Maple Tree,' which includes the titles 'A Moose in a Maple Tree,' 'The Night Before a Canadian Christmas' and 'Canadian Jingle Bells.' She is also the owner of JSH Graphics, a boutique graphic design agency that specializes in print and web advertising. With her latest project, Eco Books 4 Kids, Jennifer has partnered with illustrator Michael Arnott to create a series of ecologically-themed ebooks for children. Her next book, 'Spirit Bear,' is due for release in the Summer of 2013. Jennifer offers two different school presentations for her 'Moose in a Maple Tree' collection, an illustration demonstration and a Christmas concert series, which can be booked at www.amooseinamapletree.com. She will be taking bookings for school readings of 'Spirit Bear' beginning in October 2013.

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  1. Killer Fungi Drive Rainforest Biodiversity - February 5, 2014

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