Toxic air is causing malnutrition in trees

Besides affecting human health, air pollution is also causing malnutrition in trees by harming a fungus that is important for providing mineral nutrients to tree roots, finds a new study.

Mycorrhizal fungi are hosted by the trees in their roots to receive nutrients from the soil. These fungi provide essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium from the soil in exchange for carbon from the tree.

Mycorrhizal fungi are hosted by the trees in their roots to receive nutrients from the soil.

These fungi provide essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium from the soil in exchange for carbon from the tree.

This plant-fungal symbiotic relationship is crucial for the health of the tree.

High levels of the nutrition elements like nitrogen and phosphorus in the mycorrhizae change them to act as pollutants rather than nutrients.

The characteristics of the tree — species and nutrient status — and the local environmental conditions like the atmospheric pollution and soil variables were the most important predictors of which species of mycorrhizae fungi would be present and their numbers. These also proved to have a large impact on the fungi.

The signs of malnutrition can be seen in the form of discolored leaves and excessive falling of leaves. Ecosystem changes can also negatively affect tree health.

The results should be used to design new studies into the link between pollution, soil, mycorrhizae, and tree growth.

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