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Corsica: the secrets inside Corsican pines

The National Botanical Conservatory of Corsica and the CNRS of Montpellier have observed unusual fungi growth on the top branches of Corsican pines, which may have been triggered by forest fires. The Petzl Foundation provided the scientists with essential ascension equipment, so that they could take samples for analysis.

SEPTEMBER 2014

Pin laricio © Pascal Tournaire

To better understand the interaction between trees and fungi, scientists have explored the canopy of centuries-old Corsican pines, in search of these fungi, which take refuge in the canopy after a wildfire.

Each year, the natural heritage of Corsica is the victim of forest fires. We have known for a long time that fires clear forests, and make way for the development of pioneer species. The researchers have been investigating the possibility that the physiological shock experienced by these pines during the fire could be at the origin of this unusual fungi growth. In 2013, samples were taken at various points during the ascension of each pine, in three iconic forests on the island. The harvesting techniques used were specifically developed by the team, in order to ensure that these beautiful ancient Corsican pines remained unharmed.

The mountain team of the Corsica Regional Natural Park provided technical support to enable the research team to reach the tops of the pines and to make sampling areas safe and secure. The samples collected (needles, cones, bark, lichens, etc.) were processed on site at a field laboratory to determine the identity of the organisms they contain. The study will improve our understanding of how this ecosystem works and will also develop our knowledge of the consequences of wildfire. It will ultimately help us better manage and conserve these unique pine forests.

Sample analysis is still ongoing. The first tests provided interesting results. The harvesting technique used in the exploration of the canopy has proved to be successful.

Climbing inside the Corsican pine canopy © Pascal Tournaire
Collecting the samples meant climbing inside the Corsican pine canopy which can be more than forty meters high.

Laetitia Hugot, Director of the National Botanical Conservatory of Corsica, says:

Laeticia Hugot "Beyond the scientific results, the human adventure has been quite remarkable! The Corsica Regional Natural Park mountain team of five, led by a mountain guide, worked in conditions which were very different from what they were used to. The researchers also trained the mountain team how to harvest the samples. This multidiscipline approach worked really well. We also had some very interesting discussions on trees and ecology!"


Photos : Pascal Tournaire

Uploaded in september 2014


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