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Fungi may be crucial to storing carbon in soil as the Earth warms

When it comes to storing carbon in the ground, fungi may be key.

Soils are a massive reservoir of carbon, holding about three times as much carbon as Earth’s atmosphere. The secret behind this carbon storage are microbes, such as bacteria and some fungi, which transform dead and decaying matter into carbon-rich soil.

But not all carbon compounds made by soil microbes are equal. Some can last for decades or even centuries in the soil, while others are quickly consumed by microbes and converted into carbon dioxide that’s lost to the atmosphere. Now, a study shows that fungi-rich soils grown in laboratory experiments released less carbon dioxide when heated than other soils.

The result suggests that fungi are essential for making soil that sequesters carbon in the earth, microecologist Luiz Domeignoz-Horta and colleagues report November 6 in ISME Communications.

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