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Global mapping of tree microbial symbioses reveals their key role in climate regulation


A global map of tree microbial symbioses, produced by the Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative (GFBI), is front-page news in the 16 May issue of Nature . CIRAD, which is on the GFBI Steering Committee, helped coordinate the gathering and analysis of data on tropical forests. The researchers involved demonstrated that if carbon emissions continue at current rates, 10% des of tree ectomycorrhizal fungi will have disappeared by 2070. In a snowball effect, this would trigger even higher carbon emissions.

Some 28 000 species and 31 million trees in all, in forests, grasslands and wetlands in 70 countries on every continent (except the Antarctic) were sampled and modelled to produce a global map of symbioses between trees and associated microorganisms.

The more than 200 researchers from the Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative (GFBI) involved in the study featured in the 16 May issue of Nature focused on the three most common types of symbioses: those with

  • arbuscular endomycorrhizas
  • ectomycorrhizas
  • nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

Each type concerns thousands of fungus species that form unique partnerships with different tree species.