This work that helps confirm ideas on the role of fungi in the early establishment of plant life. This work is a raw beginning and we certainly have not thought out the role of algae and mosses and many other likely candidates.
Whatever these precursors did, they produced a soil form that then allowed plant life to emerge. Plants produce massive root systems that then provide structure for a deep soil. The ongoing synergy of fungi has been long recognized.
It would be nice to see a soil building progression worked out of a pristine sand and clay blend with some marine carbon to start and access to natural atmosphere. It should have been done.
Ancient Plants And Soil Fungi Turned Earth Green
by Staff Writers
A new breakthrough by scientists at the
The research, published Nov 2, 2010, in Nature Communications, has provided essential missing evidence showing that an ancient plant group worked together with soil-dwelling fungi to 'green' the Earth in the early Palaeozoic era, nearly half a billion years ago.
The research, which also involved experts from the
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Imperial College London and the , has provided new insights into our understanding of the evolving dynamic behaviour of the Earth's land plants and fungi. University of Sydney
Scientists have long-suspected that soil fungi formed mutually beneficial relationships with early land plants to play an essential role in assisting their initial colonisation of terrestrial environments.
However, until now there has been a lack of evidence demonstrating if and how the earliest ancient land plants, from the early Palaeozoic era (over 470 million years ago), might have cooperated with fungi for mutual benefit.
The team studied a thalloid liverwort plant, which is a member of the most ancient group of land plants that still exists and still shares many of the original features of its ancestors. They used controlled-environment growth rooms to simulate a CO2-rich atmosphere, similar to that of the Palaeozoic era when these plants originated.
This environment significantly amplified the benefits of the fungi for the plant's growth and so favoured the early formation of the association between the plant and its fungal partner.
The team found that when the thalloid liverwort was colonised by the fungi, it significantly enhanced photosynthetic carbon uptake, growth and asexual reproduction, factors that had a beneficial impact on plant fitness.
The plants grow and reproduce better when colonised by symbiotic fungi because the fungi provide essential soil nutrients. In return, the fungi also benefit by receiving carbon from the plants. The research found that each plant was supporting fungi that had an area of 1-2 times that of a tennis court.
Professor David Beerling, from the Department of Animal and PlantSciences at the
, said: "By studying these ancient plants we open a window on the past to investigate how the earliest land plants evolved. Our results support the idea that the 'greening' of the Earth was promoted by a symbiosis between plants and fungi. University of Sheffield
It shows that plants didn't get a toe-hold on land without teaming up with fungi - this has long been suspected, but until now not investigated. It will require us to think again about the crucial role of cooperation between organisms that drove fundamental changes in the ecology of our planet."
Martin Bidartondo from the Jodrell Laboratory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said: "Fungi are present in every type of habitat throughout the world and are essential for many plants to grow. It is exciting that we are now beginning to discover the fungi associated with 'lower' plants, and that many more still remain to be investigated."
Citation: 'Mutualistic mycorrhiza-like symbiosis in the most ancient group of land plants' Claire P. Humphreys , Peter J. Franks , Mark Rees, Martin I. Bidartondo, Jonathan R. Leake and David J. Beerling.