Truffles and Climate Change

A specially trained dog may have discovered the latest refugee affected by climate change: Truffles.A specially trained dog may have discovered the latest refugee affected by climate change: Truffles.

“Buffo” the truffle-hunting dog discovered his bounty while roaming the forests of southern Germany. That region is seeing milder winters and changing weather patterns, and isn’t known to grow Burgundy truffles — a subterranean fungal delicacy that can fetch $1,800 per pound. It, and other rare European varieties, typically grow in Mediterranean forests at least 100 miles south and west of Buffo’s find.

The discovery, described April 4 in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, will certainly interest truffle-hunters and gourmet chefs. But it may also hint at ecological instability.

“Fungi such as truffles help plants absorb water and nutrients. Without fungi, plants don’t work,” said fungal ecologist Lynne Boddy of Cardiff University, who wasn’t involved in the study. “We know climates are changing and that fungal habitats are shifting. What we’re not certain about are the effects.”

Symbiotic fungi, including truffles, soak up water and nutrients, and deliver them into the roots of plants. In exchange, fungi get sugars from the plants. Some varieties of truffles are prized for their taste, yet are difficult to find because they grow underground on tree roots. Pigs and Lagotto Romagnolo dogs, however, can smell oils secreted by truffles’ bulbous spore-spreading fruiting bodies.

More info about this artice in: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/04/climate-change-truffles/

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