Book of Abstracts
11th IFOAM Scientific Conference
11-15 August 1996, Copenhagen, Denmark
Department of Biotechnological Sciences, Microbiology Section, Agricultural University of Norway, P.O.Box 5040, N-1432 Aas, Norway.
Symbiosis is the general term for mutually beneficial associations between different organisms. Such associations are so common in nature, be it natural or man-made ecosystems, that it is the rule rather than the exception. Examples range from terrestrial symbioses like N-fixing bacteria associated with plants, mycorrhiza and lichens, to aquatic organisms like corals, and to animal ingestive systems like the rumen of cows and related domesticated and wild animals.
In evolution, a central part of science education, symbioses have played an equally important role. Cell organelles like chloroplasts (the basis for photosynthesis) and mitochondria (the »energy factory« of the cells in all types of life apart from bacteria) have developed from independent symbiotic organisms that have become integrated parts (organelles) of e.g.plant and aminal cells as we know them today. The success of plants in colonizing land about 420 mill. years ago, and their current widespread distribution, is in part due to that plants and fungi formed a symbiosis called mycorrhiza to improve uptake of nutrients from the soil.
The message nature can give if we focus on symbioses in science education is that cooperation, not competition, has the largest potential for success. This is a message that students in today's competitive world need to see and understand.
At the high school and college levels a variety of simple and inexpensive lab experiments can be carried out to visualize various symbioses andexplain their advantages. Examples of such experiments will be outlined.