By Opija Raduk

As global temperatures continue to rise, there is an urgent need to enhance the resilience of forest ecosystems and limit the impact of tree pests.

This is according to a new research published in the journal Scientific Reports which examined insects and fungi associated with dormant twigs of 155 tree species at 51 botanical gardens and arboreta across six continents and 32 countries.

The comprehensive study involved 57 institutions worldwide, including experts from the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI).

By analyzing the intricate relationships between climate, host species, and geography, the scientists identified key drivers of dissimilarities in tree-associated communities.

The results of the study revealed that mean annual temperature, phylogenetic distance between hosts, and geographic distance between locations were the primary factors influencing differences in tree-associated communities.

Notably, the rising significance of high temperatures directly impacted these communities, potentially leading to shifts in host ranges and affecting tree-associated organisms.

Furthermore, the research indicated that insect and fungal communities showed greater similarity when associated with closely related host species, suggesting that shifts in host range might facilitate the emergence of new pests.

Moreover, dissimilarities among tree-associated communities increased with geographic distance, implying that human-mediated transport could introduce new pests into forests.

Dr. Iva Franić, who spearheaded the research and is now affiliated with the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow, and Landscape Research WSL, emphasized the crucial role of climatic factors in shaping the composition of fungi and insects associated with trees.

The study also highlighted the importance of host-related factors, such as phylogenetic distance and wood density, in shaping these communities, indicating a co-evolutionary relationship between closely related host species.

“The study’s findings demonstrated that climatic factors played a crucial role in shaping the composition of fungi, particularly saprotrophic and plant pathogenic fungi, as well as herbivorous insects associated with trees,” stressed Franić.

Dr. René Eschen, one of the co-authors of the study and a researcher at CABI, stressed that the findings offer valuable insights into the complex dynamics of tree-associated communities, underlining the necessity for proactive measures to protect forest health in the face of environmental challenges.

“The findings of this study provide valuable insights into the complex dynamics of tree-associated communities and emphasize the importance of proactive measures to safeguard forest health in the face of environmental challenges. As climate change and global trade continue to impact our world, understanding and predicting these changes will be crucial for the long-term sustainability of our forests,” Eschen said.

The researchers urged stakeholders to prioritize safeguarding tree-derived environmental and societal benefits by limiting the establishment of new forest pests and enhancing the resilience of trees and forest ecosystems to climate change. By doing so, we can ensure the preservation of these vital resources for future generations.