Episode Summary

A global estimate of plants and their root fungi shows how agriculture may have greatly affected soil carbon storage over time!

Microbe of the episode

Microbe of the episode: Rhizobium virus RHEph4

News discussed

Jesse's takeaways

Even small organisms can have a big effect on the climate of the planet if there are enough of them. This includes trees, which are small relative to the planet, and also includes the fungi that attach to the roots of trees and other plants. These mycorrhizal fungi thread subtly through the soil, some occasionally popping up mushrooms, and transfer valuable nutrients they gather to the trees in exchange for carbon fixed from the air.

Knowing how big an effect a given kind of organism has requires knowing how much of it is around. This study collates data from various surveys of global plant populations and the fungi that interact with their roots, to estimate a global picture of the fungi below our feet. It estimates that a kind of fungus that stores more carbon in the soil may have been replaced in many areas with fungi that store less, or no fungi at all, due to the transformation of land from wild areas to farmland.

Journal Paper

Soudzilovskaia NA, van Bodegom PM, Terrer C, Zelfde M van’t, McCallum I, Luke McCormack M, Fisher JB, Brundrett MC, de Sá NC, Tedersoo L. 2019. Global mycorrhizal plant distribution linked to terrestrial carbon stocks. Nat Commun 10:1–10.

Other interesting stories

Subscribe (free) on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Android, RSS, or by email.

Support the show at Patreon. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook.