So what's the problem?
Life comes in an almost unending variety of shapes and sizes, many of which are hidden away in the under-explored corners of the planet. In order to help countries protect their biodiversity, the Darwin Initiative has been set up. This funds UK scientists who are experts in their field to research the biodiversity of a given region. In addition to helping protect organisms, projects aim to explore the possibilities of making sustainable use of them to help solve some of the problems that humanity faces.
What is this project doing?
Chile is a long, thin country, stretching over 4,350km from north to south. It is a land of extremes with deserts, mountains, areas of high rainfall and near-Antarctic conditions in the south. All of this leads to a variety of ecosystems. The project aims to survey a variety of these environmental conditions in the hope that a large selection of fungi and nematode species will be found.
Surveys will be carried out in six locations over a three year period. Soil samples will be taken and sent back to the labs where waxmoth larvae are used as bait to extract the fungi and nematodes that may be present. After identification, a series of tests help build up a profile of characteristics about each species, some of which will indicate their suitability for commercial use in the control of agricultural pests.
Results so far
Six main surveys have so far been carried out, from the far north of Chile, near Peru, in an area of arid, desert landscape to the Chilean Patagonia – a wet and cold region in the south of the country. Analysis is ongoing, but so far we know that more than 500 specimens of fungi and 100 specimens of nematode have been found; it is thought that two species of nematode completely new to science have been found. A key characteristic that scientists are looking for is the adaptability to a variety of temperatures. In initial results from the molecular and ecological testing, one species stands out: A species of nematode from a Patagonian island showed robustness to cold temperatures and was still able to infect and kill a pest at just 6°c. Scientists are continuing to investigate and are hopeful of good results.
This work will form the basis of a national database of entomopathogenic fungi and nematodes found within Chile it has also developed in-country expertise required to curate and profile them.
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Bringing together Europe's microbial resource centres
Soil Ecology and Management
by L Sampedro, J Whalen
22 December 2009
Paperback / 9781845935634 / £37.50 / $70.00 / €50.00
An excellent gateway to all current research on biofuels
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