Fungus threatens Canadian forests, scientists say

Native black cottonwood trees in B.C. are at serious risk of catching a killer, non-native fungus unless researchers can figure out how to stop it, B.C. forest scientists say.

21 Hongo amenaza los bosques canadienses, dicen los científicosBlack cottonwoods are found along B.C.’s coast and are an integral part of the ecosystem as they improve water quality, provide wildlife habitat and prevent erosion, Richard Hamelin, UBC professor and research analyst with Natural Resources Canada, said.

In a recent study Hamelin co-authored, the deadly tree fungus — mycosphaerella populorum — was found to use extra genes to produce a toxin causing fatal lesions on the leaves, stems and branches of poplar trees.

The fungus is threatening poplar trees in plantations found in eastern North America. It wasn’t widespread in B.C. until an outbreak in 2005 at a plantation in Harrison Mills, which was the research site for the study.

“We are still in a stage we think we can contain it,” Hamelin said. “Our biggest concern is it might jump out and spread on native poplar black cottonwood.”

Hamelin warns that climate change could play a big role in the fungus jumping to cottonwoods, but they don’t know what the fungus will do since it’s not native.

The team used genome sequencing to map the fungus’s DNA, which could lead to researchers getting one step closer to understand how it attacks and kills trees.

Source | http://www.torontosun.com

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