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While the arctic snow is known to protect the overwintering flora from harsh winter conditions by creating warmer pockets shielded from wind and precipitation, too much snow can be deadly. Reporting in Nature Climate Change this week (June 19), researchers found that in addition to its beneficial insulating effects, prolonged snowfall can encourage the growth of deadly fungal species such as Arwidssonia empetri, which in turn can decimate the local vegetation. The disappearance of certain varieties of hardy, tundra shrubs not only can send reverberations throughout the arctic food chain, but it can change the vegetation from a carbon sink into a carbon source, the authors suggest.
And in a more mundane setting, pathogenic fungi have been found to make a comfortable living in the moist, warm environment of common household dishwashers, researchers reporting in Fungal Biology found. The results are alarming because the fungal species found, such as black yeasts, are known to pose a health risk to humans, and this is the first time that such species have been found to thrive in the extreme conditions of heat, high salinity, and aggressive detergents.