New research shows that mushrooms feeding on dead vegetation in soils of northern areas like Alaska and Siberia, eat less and produce less harmful carbon dioxide, when temperatures climb.
When researchers from UC Irvine set out to investigate how climate change was affecting carbon dioxide output by fungi in dryer parts of the Northern Hemisphere, they discovered something altogether surprising, and not at all in line with predictions.[social_buttons]
Oftentimes mushrooms feed off of dead vegetation in the soil. During this process, they emit carbon dioxide that was being stored in that dead matter, into the atmosphere.
Scientists expected warmer than normal soils to emit larger amounts of carbon dioxide because cold temperatures are believed to slow down the process by which fungi convert soil carbon into carbon dioxide.
What they found, however, was that when soil in forests warms up, fungi that usually feed on dead plant material dry out and produce significantly less climate-warming carbon dioxide, than fungi in cooler, wetter soil. The researchers found that these dryer mushrooms in warmer soils leave more carbon dioxide locked in the soil.
“It’s fortuitous for humans that the fungi are negatively affected by this warming,” said Kathleen Treseder, ecology and evolutionary biology associate professor at UC Irvine. “It’s not so great for the fungi, but might help offset a little bit of the carbon dioxide we are putting directly into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.”
I can see how this is a good indicator of climate change, and also good in the short term to keep carbon sunk in the ground, but I can’t quite see how this new research will help us to solve the problem of global warming. I’m no expert, but aren’t dried up mushrooms on their way to being dead? And won’t an extinct mushroom species bring about a whole different set of problems?