Thursday, November 30, 2023

What Can Be Learned From Dead Fungi aboutLife?

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution, Global Change, Climate Change

Ed Hessler

In a recent field note from Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, CCESR (UMN), Adara Taylor reports on research by postdoctoral researcher Dr. Kathyrn Beidler.

The opening paragraph provides an abstract of what is to follow.

"Fungi are inextricably linked with death and decay. With microscopic filaments called hyphae that grow through tiny spaces in the soil, fungi are able to reach far and wide in search of nutrients, feasting on and decomposing organic debris on the way. So what happens when fungi, an agent of decay, meet their end?"

First, why is it important? "Below-ground fungal bodies...make up most of the carbon that sticks around in the soil, literally. Fungal Hyphae live and die next to soil minerals and sticking to clay minerals can physically protect fungal cells from being recycled by other microbes." My emphasis.

There are several reasons I'm pointing out this short article. It highlights species in the food chain/web that tend to get overlooked, at least their function. It is also a great illustration of how a field problem is turned into a laboratory and field problem. It also illustrates how research provides openings into other problems.
The close to Taylor's reporting includes a quote from Beidler. She said “It is all very circle of life, with living microbes recycling the carbon and nutrients contained within dead microbes. Ultimately I am interested in how necromass becomes stable soil carbon and how the traits of living and dead fungi influence this transformation.”
Wiki provides a short definition of necromass which is focused on above ground "dead stuff."

This research also emphasizes that we've much more to learn about food chains and food webs and also have the molecular tools to do this. They are not so simple.

And you can read all about it in this short informative article.

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