Fungi that live hidden inside plant tissues without causing injuries to the host plant are endophytes and appear to be ubiquitous. Endophytic fungi are sources of biologically active secondary metabolites with pharmaceutical importance and large potential ecological importance. Results from a pilot study indicate a remarkably high diversity of endophytic fungi in boreal forest bryophytes. Nothing of this immense diversity is visible by eye, but it is hypothesized that the relationship between the endoph yte and the host plant play a pivotal role for the function of boreal forest ecosystems because bryophytes make up a large part of the biomass in boreal forests.The project is motivated for four main reasons: First, we need information on the hidden bio logical diversity and its functional role in order to maintain ecosystem function, robustness and biodiversity. Second, it is likely that effects of anthropogenic impact on boreal forests are mediated via the relationship between fungal endophytes and bry ophytes. Third, we hypothesize that the production of secondary metabolites by the endophytic fungi protect the bryophytes from being consumed by herbivores, and if this should be the case, we will provide a completely novel causal explanation to the well -established observation that bryophytes are generally not eaten by herbivores. Fourth, secondary metabolites produced by endophytic fungi are proven to be commercially important in pharmaceutical and agricultural perspectives, and species-specific endoph ytes in boreal forest bryophytes have an unknown, but potential role to contribute positively to human well fare and development. Here it is of particular interest that bryophytes are known to contain high concentrations of polyunsaturated fatty acids (i. e. Omega-3/6 acids), which are not produced by plants, but by fungi.
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