Found trees that “eat” stones

According to a new study, consuming nutrients from stone, red alder plays a key role in forest ecosystems.

Researchers from the University of Oregon and the US Geological Survey determined that the red alder, thanks to the symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, isolated from the stone elements important for growth, for example, calcium and phosphorus. This process accelerates the decay of the rock, releasing more minerals and nutrients that allow other forest flora to grow – from mosses to trees.

The study revealed a unique type of plants that differ in their ability to naturally fertilize forests by converting atmospheric nitrogen into forms available for consumption by other plants. This process, called nitrogen fixation, is important for natural ecosystems. That is, they not only consume nitrogen, but with its help accelerate the flow of nutrients from rocks.

Thus, red alder can release nitrogen into the soil through nodules on the roots. In a sense, red alder eats stones, the researchers say. These trees can add to the ecosystem not only nitrogen, but also other nutrients that forests need for carbon growth and accumulation.