Snow Cover in the Arctic Spur Killer Fungus’ Growth
20.06.2011 - Atmosphere & Space, Flora & Fauna, Arctic
The results of new research, recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggest that prolonged snowfall in the Arctic can spur fungal growth that can kill the plants in the region. For the first time, scientists were able to show the possible long-term effects of unexpected fungal development in an Arctic ecosystem. The ensuing damage would leave place for other species to develop and the changes could alter the food web.
Using snow fences to maintain increased snow conditions, the researchers from Durham University, Umeå University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the Finnish Forest Research Institute found that the fungus, Arwidssonia empetri, grew under heavier and prolonged snow cover. In the first years of the experiment, the insulating effect of snow helped the vegetation to grow; however after six years, the fungus spread quickly to destroy the plants. The fungus also affected carbon exchange between the plants and the atmosphere, transforming the vegetation from a natural carbon sink into a net carbon source.
The conclusions of the new research should help scientists gain better insight into local and regional long-term climate change effects and extreme weather events. The scientists believe the surprising interactions they showed between plants and other organisms can be useful in better understanding the world’s climate.