By Tyler MacDonald
Scientists have long known that bacteria in and on the human body are essential for health, playing a role in nutrition, obesity and disease protection. However, only recently have experts begun to examine the role of the microbiome of plants and their role in symbiosis.
A new study by University of Washington researchers reveals that poplar trees in rocky, inhospitable terrain possess bacteria inside them that fertilize them and likely help them grow through the provision of valuable nutrients. Furthermore, these microbial communities are very diverse, with significant variation observed between each plant.
"This variability made it especially difficult to quantify the activity, but is the key to the biology since it is probably only specific groupings of microorganisms that are working together to provide this nutrient to the host," said Sharon Doty of the University of Washington and lead author of the study.
One of the most important natural processes for life is nitrogen fixation. However, in low-nutrient environments such as rocky terrains, plants must rely on bacteria to conduct nitrogen fixation and provide them with the nutrients that they need.