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Fungal infections affect pine trees' ability to ward off mountain pine beetles


by Bev Betkowski, University of Alberta

University of Alberta research provides new insight into how harmful fungal infections could affect the ability of lodgepole pines to defend themselves from deadly mountain pine beetle attacks.

Using five different pathogens, the study revealed that the fungal infections had varied effects on the trees' defense chemistry, suggesting that they could either be more resilient or more susceptible to subsequent attacks by the insect.

The findings, published in the journal Microbial Ecology, could lead to new ways to protect mature lodgepole pine trees—important to forest ecology and the forest industry—from disease and insect infestation, says Rashaduz Zaman, who led the study and is working towards a Ph.D. in forest biology and management from the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences.

One of the most widespread coniferous trees in western North America, lodgepole pines make up about 35% of the forested land in Alberta and British Columbia and are becoming more vulnerable to pests as global temperatures grow warmer, he notes.

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