Microscopic soil creatures could orchestrate massive tree ‘migrations

May 8, 2017 University of Tennessee at Knoxville  Full ScienceDaily Article Here

Warming temperatures are prompting some tree species in the Rocky Mountains to ‘migrate’ to higher elevations in order to survive. Researchers have discovered that tiny below-ground organisms play a role in this phenomenon — and could be used to encourage tree migration in order to preserve heat-sensitive species. Their work shows how these invisible biotic communities create ‘soil highways’ for young trees, meaning they could determine how quickly species march uphill, if at all.

The newfound role of the soil microbiome — the collection of microscopic bacteria, fungi and archaea that interact with plant roots — represents a turning point for research aimed at understanding and predicting where important tree species will reside in the future…

…”we need to work with the trees near the bottom of the mountain, because they are the ones that will feel the most stress from warming temperatures,” Van Nuland said. “So we have to figure out a way to coax them to move up.” The research could help scientists design specific groups of bacteria and fungi to encourage the migration of trees threatened by warming climates….