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When Trees Attack, Fungus Can Parry

Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 2:43 pm
by edfrank
When Trees Attack, Fungus Can Parry
by Sara Reardon on 24 January 2011, 4:42 PM ... n-par.html

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All across British Columbia, from the Pacific Ocean past the Rocky Mountains, more than 40 million acres of coniferous forest stand brown and desiccated, ravaged by the mountain pine beetle. Over the past decade, the pest has spread virtually unchecked, rupturing ecosystems and maiming British Columbia's timber industry. A new genetic analysis reveals how the beetle's partner in crime—the fungus Grosmannia clavigera—helps the insect elude pine trees' natural defenses, providing it safe passage to the tree's core.

Although the pine beetle gets most of the blame for destroying forests, many researchers think that G. clavigera is the more deadly of the duo. Commonly known as blue stain fungus for the color it leaves on the wood of trees, G. clavigera travels from tree to tree in the beetle's mouth. The fungus, beetle, and pine tree are three competitors in a "never-ending arms race," says molecular biologist Joerg Bohlmann of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, in Canada. (continued)