Fungi awake bacteria from their slumber
When a soil dries out, this has a negative impact on the activity of soil bacteria.
Using an innovative combination of state-of-the-art analysis and imaging techniques, researchers at UFZ have now discovered that fungi increase the activity of bacteria in dry and nutrient-poor habitats by supplying them with water and nutrients.
Once found, water and nutrients are absorbed and transported through the hyphae, allowing them to be supplied to parts of the fungal network in dry or nutrient-poor areas of the soil.
As part of their investigations, the researchers closely examined the transport of water, substrates and nutrients through the microscopically small hyphae of fungi.
The fungal hyphae had to pass through a dry, nutrient-free zone in order to grow through into a new area containing the culture medium.
In the experiment, these conditions were indeed improved by the growth of the fungi: "As the fungal hyphae grew through the dry zone, the bacterial spores germinated and we noticed clear microbial activity," says UFZ environmental microbiologist Dr. Lukas Y. Wick.
This study has given the UFZ researchers another important insight into fungi and their important function in soils.
This could be important specifically with regard to the impacts of climate change, if the ratio of dry to moist areas of soil dramatically increases," says Kästner.
"We want to carry out soil experiments under different environmental conditions and find out what influence fungal growth has on the breakdown of pollutants," says Wick.
Mycelium-mediated transfer of water and nutrients stimulates bacterial activity in dry and oligotrophic environments.