Mushrooms, with their extraordinary abilities, are a potential solution to the pressing problem of climate change. These organisms play an important role in the environment and provide various benefits in mitigating climate change. One of the important contributions of fungi is their ability to sequester carbon dioxide, thereby reducing the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Recent research from the University of Sheffield has found that fungi may be responsible for absorbing around 36% of global fossil fuel emissions.
Beneath the Earth’s surface lies a vast network of fungi that store more than 13 billion tons of carbon worldwide. This storage capacity is roughly equivalent to 36% of annual global fossil fuel emissions. Previously, the true extent of carbon storage of mycorrhizal fungi, which form symbiotic relationships with most terrestrial plants, was not fully understood. These fungi transfer carbon, which plants convert into sugars and fats, into the soil. The discovery of their critical role in carbon storage highlights their potential in tackling climate change and achieving net zero emissions. Scientists are currently working on ways to increase the carbon storage capacity of the soil beneath our feet.
Mycorrhizal fungi are important for sustaining terrestrial life for at least 450 million years. They form vast networks underground, extending even under roads, gardens and buildings on all continents. An international team of scientists, including experts from the University of Sheffield’s School of Biological Sciences, conducted a meta-analysis of numerous studies on soil-plant processes. Their study, published in the journal Current Biology, shows an estimated 13.12 billion tons of carbon dioxide is transferred annually from plants to fungi. This process turns soil into a huge carbon store, making it the most efficient carbon capture and storage unit globally.
The amount of carbon stored by fungi accounts for about 36% of annual global fossil fuel emissions, surpassing China’s annual emissions. As a result, researchers are advocating the inclusion of fungi in biodiversity and conservation policy because of their key role in reducing carbon emissions. If current trends continue, the United Nations warns that 90% of land could be degraded by 2050, with dire consequences for climate change mitigation, rising temperatures and crop yields. and flowers.
Professor Katie Field, co-author of the study and an expert on plant and soil processes at the University of Sheffield, emphasizes the importance of mycorrhizal fungi. She highlights that these fungi are often overlooked in carbon ecological modeling, conservation and restoration efforts.
She explained, “Mycorrhizal fungi represent a blind spot in carbon modeling, conservation and recovery – the numbers we found are staggering and when we think about climate solutions, what should we think about as well. We can do with what we already have.“
Researchers are currently investigating the carbon storage lifespan of soil fungi and are studying more about the multifaceted role fungi play in Earth’s ecosystems.
Dr Heidi Hawkins, lead author of the study from the University of Cape Town, notes that while forests have received considerable attention as a natural means of mitigating climate change, the fate of a The significant amount of carbon dioxide moving from the forest has received little attention. air to mycorrhizal fungi through photosynthesis.
Dr. Hawkins added, “The big gap in our knowledge is the long-term persistence of carbon in mycorrhizal structures. We know it’s an outflow, with some being retained in the mycorrhizal structures. while the fungus lives and even after it dies, some will break down into small carbon molecules and from there either bind to particles in the soil, or even be reused by plants. some carbon will be lost as carbon dioxide during respiration by other bacteria or by the fungus itself.”
Professor Toby Kiers, senior author of Vrije University Amsterdam and co-founder of the Consortium to Protect Underground Networks, highlights global efforts to understand the role fungi play in Earth’s ecosystems.
“This work is part of a global effort to understand the role fungi play in Earth’s ecosystems. We know that mycorrhizal fungi are vitally important ecosystem engineers, but they’re invisible to us.” with most people. Mycorrhizal fungi underlie the food webs that support much of life on Earth, but we’re just beginning to understand how they really work. There is still a lot to learn.”
Ongoing research, led by the University of Sheffield’s School of Biological Sciences, is currently investigating the specific role of mycorrhizal fungi in soil carbon and nutrient cycles. By simulating future climates in specialized outdoor experiments, this NERC-funded study aims to advance our understanding of the important contributions of soil fungi, along with other microbes. other, with respect to subterranean carbon transport and how these processes will be affected by future climate. change .