Science on Sundays: April 2024

Cambridge University

April 21

Botanic Garden

From exploring herbarium uses to discovering the secrets of wildflowers and fungi, come and discover the fascinating world of plant science in just 30 minutes! Science on Sundays is a free, informal and monthly series of talks, sharing the latest discoveries in plant science and research with our visitors. Species-rich grasslands are nationally important habitats that support an increasingly threatened flora. Surprisingly, the above ground biodiversity is sustained belowground by soil that is low in mineral nutrients. These limiting conditions are essential to prevent the growth of vigorous grass species, which would quickly dominate and lead to the development of species-poor swards. The low nutrient conditions are also essential for rich communities of mycorrhizal fungi in the soil, the growth of which is inhibited by high nutrients, for example after artificial fertilisation. Mycorrhizal fungi are an essential component of grassland habitats, providing plants with nutrients, promoting a stable soil structure, and locking carbon in the ground, and the loss of mycorrhizal fungi is associated with grassland degradation. This loss and the impossible task of re-establishing these ancient networks are two reasons among many that preserving and appropriately maintaining existing grasslands is the priority for conservation. Come along to learn more about the fungal communities that support grassland habitats, the meadow species growing at CUBG, and how we can help to conserve and restore our native grasslands.