Fungi absorb huge amounts of carbon and play an important role in combating global warming

Mushrooms are not only a tasty and healthy food, but also a key player in the fight against global warming. Climate scientists at Britain’s University of Sheffield found that mushrooms absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide each year, equivalent to 13.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide. This compares to a third of the emissions from burning fossil fuels. This was reported by the university’s press office.

Key findings of the study

Scientists studied the carbon cycle between plants and symbiotic fungi, whose fungi connect to the root systems of virtually all trees and other flora in forests and other ecosystems on Earth. To obtain data on carbon uptake by fungi, the researchers analyzed data that was collected by observing the interactions between plants and five key groups of fungi that form different types of mycorrhizae.

As it turned out, plants expended a fairly substantial proportion of the sugars produced to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with fungi, ranging from 1% for wheat, corn and some other grains, and up to 6-7% for carrots and alfalfa, as well as up to 10-20% for many broadleaf forest trees and other wild plants. This was especially characteristic of those representatives of flora whose symbionts were fungi with so-called ectomycorrhizae.

Based on these estimates, scientists calculated the amount of carbon pumped annually by all the plants of the world into their symbiotic fungi. It turns out that every year a huge mass of organic matter ends up in the soil, equivalent to 13.1 billion tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The significance of the study

The existence of this carbon reservoir, the researchers note, is not currently accounted for by climate models, which reduces the accuracy of their predictions. The subsequent study of interactions between fungi and plants, the scientists hope, will allow climatologists to correct this defect and improve the quality of predictions of how the Earth’s climate will change in the coming years and decades.

In addition, the study highlights the importance of preserving forests and other ecosystems where interactions between plants and fungi occur. The destruction of forests and other natural habitats can disrupt the carbon cycle and worsen the climate.

Expert Opinion

Olga Senatorova, director of the Center for Ecological Research:

“The study by British scientists highlights the importance of preserving natural ecosystems, where the interaction between plants and fungi takes place. Forests are the largest reservoirs of carbon on Earth, and it is fungi that play an important role in preserving this carbon in the soil. So it is necessary to take measures to conserve forests and other natural habitats to prevent climate degradation.

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