FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - News may not be so gloomy for certain types of trees predicted to go extinct because of climate change.
Researchers at Northern Arizona University say a type of fungus that thrives on pine and juniper trees in the region helps them fend off drought.
Pinyon pine trees are predicted to go extinct by 2090 because of climbing temperatures and extended dryness. But the research by NAU professors, which links pests that feed off trees with how those trees fare during times of drought, may give hope that they could survive longer than expected.
That’s because climate change models that make predictions such as the one about pinyon pines’ longevity don’t take into account genetic differences within a species, the Arizona Daily Sun reported (https://bit.ly/1Po0low ).
Catherine Gehring, a professor of plant and fungal ecology at NAU, said those genetic differences within the same trees are what determine which trees survive and which falter.
The biggest difference: fungi, or the types of fungal communities that cling to the roots of trees. Gehring, who began studying pinyon pine in the 1990s, found that differently shaped trees had varied fungal communities from the more traditionally shaped ones.
Trees that fare better after being eaten by moths’ larvae also have a higher chance of weathering drought. Trees that don’t do well with larvae also fare poorly during a drought.
Gehring also has found that the fungi associated with drought tolerance are becoming more common across the landscape, which could be a good sign for the survival and proliferation of trees that can weather climate change.
“With these trees, we haven’t found a tree on the landscape that is able to do it all,” Gehring said.
Information from: Arizona Daily Sun, https://www.azdailysun.com/
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