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December 3rd, 2019 / IIASA

A new global assessment shows that human impacts have greatly reduced plant-fungus symbioses, which play a key role in sequestering carbon in soils. Restoring these ecosystems could be one strategy to slow climate change.

Human-induced transformations of Earth’s ecosystems have strongly affected distribution patterns of plant-fungus symbioses known as mycorrhiza. These changes have greatly reduced vegetation featuring a particular variety of mycorrhizaectomycorrhizaa type of plant-fungal symbiosis crucially important for soil carbon storage. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, shows that loss of ectomycorrhizal symbiosis has reduced the ability of these ecosystems to sequester carbon in soils. 

Most plant species form symbioses with various fungi, in which fungi provide plants with nutrients, while the plants provide carbon to the fungi. Previous research has shown that these relationships increase the potential of vegetation to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it in soils. However, because of the complexity of these relationships and multiple species involved, it has been difficult to estimate the global impact of such symbioses. Read more …