Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Weird Wednesday: More Fun With Fungi

Pensive Tuesday will resume soon, but I'm having so much fun learning about the symbiosis of plants and fungi, I just gotta keep going!

Yesterday I learned that what we refer to as "carbon sequestration by forests" is actually "carbon sequestration by fungi", at least in the northern boreal forests. Huh?
Scientists in Sweden have found that while plants temporarily sequester carbon, they send it down to their roots as sugars, which are quickly eaten by symbiotic fungi. Those fungi that give the plants their Fungi-Net, or Fungaphones. The carbon then remains in the soil as residue. So between 50-70% of stored carbon in the soil is really from fungi, via the plants. It's always more complicated than it looks!
It's complicated....

As our climate keeps warming (or, to be more precise, as we keep warming our climate), it's not clear how this relationship which is so important for keeping it cool will be maintained. Drought and heat release the carbon from the soil, but will warming temperatures encourage greater forest growth and carbon sequestration? The net result remains to be seen, but now scientists are looking at the correct relationships in order to figure it out. Certainly deforestation of any kind is clearly a big bad for the climate, and for us.


  1. You's always the little guys that end up being the most important. Another revision of the carbon cycle. I better dust off my ecology lecture. Neat stuff Marla. Thanks.

  2. I know, it's always the quiet little ones you have to watch out for!