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Fungi Help Trees Fight Acid Rain

Ecologist discovers root fungi protect some species

TUESDAY, June 25, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Fungi on the roots of some trees in the Northeastern United States help those trees combat the effects of acid rain, but not all species are protected, says a Cornell University forest ecologist.

Timothy J. Fahey is co-author of the fungi discovery, which was reported in a recent issue of the journal Nature.

He and his fellow scientists found fungi on some tree roots help supply those trees with calcium, an important plant nutrient that's leached from forest soils battered by acid rain. The fungi can be found on spruce, fir and other coniferous trees and on some hardwood trees such as oaks.

However, Fahey says sugar maples don't have the benefit of those fungi. Calcium and magnesium depletion in the soil caused by acid rain has been linked to the decline of sugar maples in the Northeastern United States.

While the trees that do have the right root fungi may be able to counter the loss of calcium in the soil, that doesn't necessarily protect them from other effects of acid rain, Fahey says.

For example, acid rain causes levels of naturally occurring aluminum in the soil to increase, and that can hinder plant growth.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers complete information about the causes and effects of acid rain.

SOURCE: Cornell University news release, June 17, 2002
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