The fungus soil stores a third of the world’s CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels, a finding that reveals that these organisms are key to neutralizing the gases that cause climate change and reaching the long-awaited ‘net zero’ balance.
The UN’s “net zero” goal involves cutting greenhouse gas emissions as close as possible to zero emissions and the rest being reabsorbed by the ocean and forests.
The study, led by scientists from the University of Sheffield (England) and published in the journal Current Biologystates that mycorrhizal fungi (those that form symbiotic associations with plants) Trap up to 36 percent of global fossil fuel emissions underground (about 13 gigatons), more than China emits in a year.
A vast global underground network
Fungi have formed vast underground networks for at least 450 million years. under the soil of meadows, forests, roads, gardens or houses and play a crucial role not only when it comes to storing carbon and keeping the planet cooler, but also for biodiversity.
Until now, it was known that, thanks to their symbiotic relationships with almost all plants, fungi could store carbon, but it was not known how much carbon they could capture.
After publishing the data from the study, the authors have asked policy makers to take into account the value of these organisms in policies and actions for the conservation and protection of biodiversity.
The UN estimates that at the current rate 90% of the soil could be degraded by 2050something catastrophic not only to stop climate change and the rise in temperatures, but also for the productivity of crops and plants.
As Katie Field, Professor of Plant-Soil Processes at the University of Sheffield and co-author of the study, explains, “Mycorrhizal fungi are a blind spot in carbon modelling, conservation and restoration, but the numbers we have discovered are staggering.”
“Soil ecosystems are being destroyed at an alarming rate by agriculture, development and other industries, but the broader effects of disturbing soil communities are poorly understood” and in doing so “we sabotaged our efforts to limit global warming and we undermine the ecosystems we depend on.”
For this reason, Field emphasizes, “more needs to be done to protect these underground networks: We knew they were essential for biodiversity but now we have evidence that they are crucial for the health of our planet.”
the researchers are now studying how long soil fungi store carbonin addition to continuing to analyze the role played by fungi in Earth’s ecosystems.
For Toby Kiers, lead author from the Vrije University of Amsterdam and co-founder of the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks, “this study is part of a global effort to understand the role that fungi play in Earth’s ecosystems.”
“Mycorrhizal fungi are at the base of the food webs that support much of life on Earth., but we are just beginning to understand how they really work. We have a lot to learn ”, she warns.
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