Article

Symbiotic relationships between trees and microbes governed by climate

In and around the roots of the trees are fungi and bacteria living in symbiosis with the trees, exchanging nutrients for carbon. An effort to map the most common symbiosis types - based on data from more than 1.1 million specimens and 28,000 tree species - has revealed factors that determine where different types of mycorrhizae and nitrogen-fixing bacteria will thrive. The work can help researchers understand how symbiosis shapes the world's forests and how they can be affected by a warmer climate.

Researchers from Stanford University in collaboration with over 200 researchers from other universities, including SLU, generated these maps and published in Nature on May 16. The work reveals a new biological rule that the research team calls “Read’s Law”, after a pioneer in symbiosis research, Sir David Read.

For example, researchers used the survey to predict how symbiosis might change by 2070, if carbon dioxide emissions continue as they do today. This scenario led to a ten percent reduction in the biomass of tree species that have the type of soft-pink rhizomes found primarily in cooler areas. The researchers warn that such a loss of growth can increase the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

“There’s only so many different symbiotic types and we’re showing that they obey clear rules,” said lead author Brian Steidinger, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford. Our models predict major changes in the world’s forest symbiosis – changes that may affect the climate in which our grandchildren will live. – The result of the study is important in itself, but it also shows the strength and usefulness of the data collected in well-executed monitoring programs such as the National Forest Assessment, says Bertil Westerlund from SLU, who contributed Swedish data to the study.

The popular workshops series on computational skills and biodiversity informatics from the GGBC is back after the summer break with new and exciting topics for this autumn. See schedule below and make sure to spread this in your networks. For signing up, send 3 lines of motivation to join the course to Matthias Obst.


September 17th: SupersmartR. Develop pipelines in R for creating phylogenetic trees including mass sequence download, sequence identification, alignment, tree estimation, supermatrix and supertree construction. Sign up deadline 10/9

September 26th: Basic handling of spatial data in R. Spatial R course for beginners. Learn the essentials about polygons, spatial points, rasters etc. Sign up deadline 19/9

September 27th: Advanced handling of spatial data in R. Spatial R course, slightly advanced. Learn how to tackle common challenges that arrise when working with spatial data. Essential stuff for any publication/presentation quality display of spatial data. Sign up deadline 20/9

November 13th: Python for Biologists – basics. Ever found yourself wondering what all this Python talk is about? This is your chance to get started with this super handy and fun programming language and to learn how to apply it to biological data. Sign up deadline 6/11

December 4th: Python for Biologists – advanced. Slightly advanced Python course, with an emphasis on data processing and visualization. Sign up deadline 27/11

All workshops take place in the Botanical or Zoology building at University of Gothenburg. To enable participation from outside of Gothenburg the courses are designed as half-day modules starting at noon and including homework assignments. Lunch is provided at each occasion. The courses are financed by ForBio, Swedish LifeWatch, Biodiversity Atlas Sweden, and the Nordic e-Infrastructure Collaboration.


The courses are aimed at Swedish and Nordic students. If you need travel support to join a course, please add this request to your application. Please state in your application if you are a ForBio member.  For questions on the content of the courses please contact Tobias Andermann or Matthias Obst.