Severe wildfires spark population boom in fungi and bacteria

Understanding how microbial communities change after a fire can help researchers to predict how an ecosystem will recover.

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Wildfires are getting larger, burning hotter and becoming increasingly unpredictable, devastating plant and animal species. Now, researchers are studying how these blazes affect the tiniest of forest organisms — including bacteria and fungi — and finding that some microbes thrive after an intense wildfire.

A study posted last week on the preprint server bioRxiv reports that populations of several bacterial and fungal species increased after severe wildfires in the boreal forests of the Northwest Territories and Alberta in Canada. These kinds of studies, as well as others on how fire characteristics such as smoke affect the distribution of microbes, give researchers a clearer picture of how wildfires change microbial communities. This could help them to predict how ecosystems will recover after a conflagration.

By: Jennifer Leman/Nature News


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