Fungi absorb about third of total greenhouse gas emissions: Study
Researchers discover that fungi have been acting as a "carbon bank" in nature.
Scientists discovered that fungi store carbon dioxide in large amounts each year, equivalent to 13.1 billion tonnes, which compares to a third of the emissions from burning fossil fuels.
The latest studies show that fungi play a crucial role in mitigating climate change by storing more than a third of the world's annual fossil fuel emissions. The research was conducted by many scientists from various institutions who found that fungi pull 36% of global fossil fuel emissions from the atmosphere. The study highlights the carbon storage capacity of fungi, calling to include them in conservation and biodiversity policies.
By absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it in the soil, fungi are described as a "carbon bank. "They encompass a wide underground network, which includes mycorrhizal fungi that form symbiotic relationships with plants. Researchers estimate that globally, plants transfer approximately 13 gigatons of carbon dioxide to underground fungi each year.
What is the threat to Fungi?
Professor of Plant-Soil Processes at the University of Sheffield and co-author of the study, Katie Field said that "Mycorrhizal fungi represent a blind spot in carbon modeling, conservation, and restoration - the numbers we’ve uncovered are jaw-dropping, and when we’re thinking about solutions for climate we should also be thinking about what we can harness that exists already."
That said, human activities such as agriculture, mining, and industry disrupt fungal networks and pose a threat to their carbon storage capabilities.
The study emphasizes the importance of protecting these underground fungal networks, not only for biodiversity but also for combating climate change. The UN warns that 90% of the Earth's topsoil, which plays a critical role in sustaining crops and forests, could be at risk of degradation by 2050.
"Understandably, much focus has been placed on protecting and restoring forests as a natural way to mitigate climate change, but little attention has been paid to the fate of the vast amounts of carbon dioxide that are moved from the atmosphere during photosynthesis by those plants and sent belowground to mycorrhizal fungi," said Dr. Heidi Hawkins, lead author of the study from the University of Cape Town.
How do Fungi absorb Co2?
Details of how fungi store carbon are not fully understood, but researchers are exploring how to increase the soil's carbon-holding capacity. The duration of carbon storage by fungi is being investigated and so is the broader role fungi play in Earth's ecosystems.
The research's findings underscore the need to consider fungi in an effort to limit global heating and safeguard ecosystems.
As a whole, the study adds to the growing recognition of fungi as essential actors in the battle against climate change and promotes further investigation into any potential contributions to achieving net-zero emissions.