Prof. Alan Gange
Professor of Microbial Ecology
Responses of fungi to climate change. Multitrophic interactions between plant symbiotic fungi and insect herbivores.
Fungal fruiting and climate change
Prof. Gange's late father (Ted Gange) collected records of fungal appearance in an area around Salisbury, Wiltshire from 1950 to 2015. This 30 km radius area covers all of the New Forest and Salisbury Plain. He and colleagues now have over 70,000 detailed records of fungal occurrence for 2,400 species and the records have been deposited in the Fungal Records Database of the British Isles. They are analysing this data set, looking at how fungal phenology has changed over the last 65 year and whether certain groups or species of fungi have altered their host associations.
There has been a great deal of work with endophytic fungi in grasses and their interactions with insect herbivores. However, much less is known about endophytes in herbs and their interactions with insects. The diversity of fungi within herbaceous plants is high and we have found that vertical transmission of fungi, from one generation of plants to the next, via the seed, can occur. Certain endophytes can elicit remarkable chemical changes in their hosts and these can have dramatic effects on insect herbivores.
Interactions between arbuscular mycorrhizas and phytophagous insects
Prof. Gange and colleagues were the first to show that the presence of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi in plant root systems can affect the growth, reproduction and survival of foliar- and root-feeding insects. They have also found that the effects of these fungi extend beyond herbivores to influence the behaviour of pollinating and parasitoid insects. Furthermore, these effects are apparent at the evolutionary level, where they found that AM fungi can influence levels of insect dietary specialisation.
Biological control of weeds
Prof. Gange's latest NERC project is looking at how we can improve the efficacy of a rust fungus, recently released by CABI to control Himalayan balsam. They are working with CABI and the university of Reading to find out if manipulating the endophyte and mycorrhizal fungi within balsam can influence the performance of the rust. Furthermore, they have found that balsam has a serious effect on the soil microbial community composition which would reduce the chances of native vegetation re-establishing if balsam was eradicated. Thus, they are trying to use AM fungi to improve soil quality and improve native vegetation restoration.
Gange, A.C., Gange, E.G., Sparks, T.H. & Boddy, L. (2007). Rapid and recent changes in fungal fruiting patterns. Science 316, 71-7.
Hartley, S.E. & Gange, A.C. (2009). The impacts of symbiotic fungi on insect herbivores: mutualism in a multitrophic context. Annual Review of Entomology 54, 323-342.
Pattison, Z., Rumble, H. Tanner, R.A., Jin, L. & Gange, A.C. (2016). Positive plant-soil feedbacks of the invasive Impatiens glandulifera and their effects on above-ground microbial communities. Weed Research 56, 198-207.
Royal Holloway, University of London