June 5, 2023: Newly conducted research reveals that the extensive network of fungi beneath our soil surface is responsible for storing more than 13 gigatons of carbon globally. This amount is approximately equal to 36 percent of the total annual fossil fuel emissions worldwide. To put it into perspective, this quantity surpasses the annual emissions of China, one of the world's largest emitters of CO2.
It is believed that mycorrhizal fungi possess the ability to retain carbon. These fungi form mutually beneficial connections with nearly all terrestrial plants, enabling them to transfer carbon from the plants, which has been converted into sugars and fats, into the soil. However, until recently, the exact magnitude of carbon storage by these fungi remained unknown.
A team of internationally renowned scientists, including experts from the University of Sheffield's School of Biosciences, conducted an extensive analysis of numerous studies on plant-soil processes. Their objective was to determine the extent to which fungi store carbon on a global scale
The results of their study, published in the journal, Current Biology, unveiled that approximately 13.12 gigatons of Carbon dioxide are annually transferred from plants to fungi. This process effectively converts the soil beneath our feet into a vast carbon reservoir, making it the most efficient carbon capture storage system worldwide. This discovery highlights the potential importance of fungi in global efforts to address climate change and achieve net-zero emissions.
With the ability to store a third of carbon emissions from fossil fuels, these often-overlooked organisms may hold the key to a sustainable future. As we strive to mitigate the impacts of climate change, it is crucial that we recognize the vital role fungi play in carbon sequestration and implement strategies to harness their power. By understanding and harnessing the full potential of fungi, we can take a significant step forward in our collective efforts to preserve our planet for future generations.