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New database reveals plants' secret relationships with fungi - University of Leiden

Leiden researchers have compiled information collected by scientists over the past 120 years into a database of plant-fungal interactions. This important biological data is now freely available for researchers and nature conservationists. Publication in New Phytologist.

Almost all vascular plants have a relationship with a fungus in their roots that allow them to obtain nutrients from the soil. This relationship, called mycorrhiza, is symbiotic, since the fungi too benefit from it. It is so important that most plant species would not be able survive without it.

Until now, information on this symbiotic relationship has been scattered throughout myriad scientific publications. A new database of fungal interactions, available via the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and the PlutoF biodiversity data management platform, combines all knowledge into a single source and allows scientists to acquire a new understanding of the importance of the relationship between plants and soil fungi.

Fundamental aspect of plant life

Root fungi not only help plants to obtain nutrients from the soil, but the types of mycorrhiza available and their abundance in plant roots can have a large influence on plant life in general. Research has shown that types and intensity of mycorrhiza in an ecosystem can drastically affect plant biodiversity. Studies have even shown that mycorrhizal fungi can influence how much carbon an ecosystem can store in the soil.

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