About these ads

Forest fungi help stabilize climate during low CO2 times



Yet another study shows how fungi may play a key role in regulating carbon.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — While most current climate research focuses on increasing levels of carbon dioxide, scientists in the UK recently studied long-past eras when CO2 levels were much lower, and discovered a biological mechanism that could explain how the Earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate were stabilized over the past 24 million years.

When CO2 levels became too low for plants to grow properly, forests appear to have kept the climate in check by slowing down the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The report has been published in Biogeosciences, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union.

“As CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere fall, the Earth loses its greenhouse effect, which can lead to glacial conditions,” said lead-author Joe Quirk, with the University of Sheffield. “Over the last 24 million years, the geologic conditions were such that atmospheric CO2 could have fallen to very low levels … but it did not drop below a minimum concentration of about 180 to 200 parts per million. Why?” Continue reading

About these ads

Study: Fungi play key role in global carbon cycle


The role of fungi must be considered in carbon models.

Interaction between plants, fungi and bacteria determine how much carbon is stored in soils

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Certain types of fungi that live symbiotically with plants play a crucial role in the global carbon cycle by regulating how much carbon is stored by soils.

According to a new study by scientists with the University of Texas at Austin, Boston University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the fungi have a bigger effect that most other factors, including including the amount of plant growth, temperature and rainfall.

Another recent study from Sweden also showed that mycorrhizal fungi are trapping the carbon deep in the ground as part of the process of nutrient exchange between the fungi and plant species. Continue reading

Morning photo: Mushroom madness

Forest comes alive with fungi


A wild Agaricus mushroom, closely related to commercial button mushrooms found in grocery stores.

FRISCO —It’s pretty hard to walk anywhere in local forests and fields without stumbling across a patch of mushrooms. Lingering monsoon rains and relatively warm temperatures have fostered an incredible diversity of fungi this year.In many years, we’ve had at least a couple of frosts by this time of year, which generally means the end of the season for all but the heartiest species. During a short walk near Officers Gulch Thursday I spotted more than 30 species in less than 15 minutes before losing count, and there are at least a half-dozen species growing in the landscaped areas around our Frisco townhome complex. Get out and enjoy it now, because it may well be several years before we have another season like this one. Continue reading

Morning photo: Fantastic fungi

They’re everywhere!


A russula pushes up through forest litter.

FRISCO — It’s hard to take a walk in the woods these days without stumbling on mushrooms. They’re everywhere — pushing up through the hard dirt of roadside berms, growing on stumps, pine needles and leaves and hiding beneath the wet grass. Some of the species showing themselves are only found when there’s a late and sustained rainy season in the high country, and the emergence of species like shaggy ink cap (below) means that it’s getting to the end of mushroom season. All the shots in this set were taken during a 20-minute walk near the Meadow Creek trailhead. All the fungi were growing within 50 feet of the road. Continue reading

Sunday magazine: Mushroom mania in Colorado

From tasty meals to myco-remediation …


One of the more unusual fungi found in Colorado forests. bberwyn photo.



By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Fungi fanatics are calling it one of the best seasons in recent memory, as steady summer rains spurred a bumper crop of stinky squid, shaggy ink cap and purple slime mushrooms, not to mention delectables like porcini and chanterelles.

This past weekend, a handful of Colorado towns held festivals to celebrate mushrooms in all their diverse glory — if we’re all connected intellectually via the electronic web, then we’re probably also connected biologically, and fungi are one of the key threads that holds the web of life together.

In Telluride, amidst the good-natured fun of mushroom-themed parades and cook-fests, scientists discussed the latest research on myco-remediation. There’s promise that known — along with as-yet unstudied species — that fungi could help with a wide range of environmental and human health issues.

The mushroom festival maintained a lively social media feed on Twitter, sharing images like this:

In some situations, fungi could help clean up lead contamination, and Forest Service scientists are trying to improve restoration of dwindling whitebark pine forests with fungal applications.

In Scandinavia, forest researchers have discovered that fungi play a greater role in the carbon cycle than previously understood, and there are also concerns that a warmer and wetter future world could spur the growth of forest-killing fungi. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Traditional forestry practices shown to affect fungal diversity in Spanish beech groves

Clearing debris interrupts vital ecological cycles


Fungi grow on a fallen tree branch in a Colorado spruce forest. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Traditional forestry practices — primarily the clearing of dead wood — are reducing fungal diversity, thereby potentially affecting as-yet unknown ecological cycles that could be critical to long-term forest sustainability.

Fungi, along with bacteria, are crucial to converting dead wood back into basic organic matter that can be recycled by forests. Researchers with the University of the Basque Country recently set out to quantify the impacts of debris-clearing by sampling fungal communities in 16 test plots in beech forests. The results of the study have been published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management.

The main conclusion of the study is that forestry and classical forest management are harming the community of saproxylic fungi. What is more, the researchers have discovered that in the forests being exploited various fungi species are disappearing and in some cases even whole families are affected. Continue reading

Climate: Do fungi drive the forest carbon cycle?


A mushroom and spruce seedling grow intertwined in a Colorado forest. Bob Berwyn photo.

In some forests, up to 70 percent of carbon sequestration happens deep underground

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Humble mushrooms may play a much greater role in regulating forest carbon cycles than previously understood, according to new research from Sweden.

Most scientific literature suggests that the plant matter in northern forests is responsible for sequestering atmospheric carbon, but after carefully analyzing numerous soil samples, the Swedish scientists concluded that mycorrhizal fungi, which live in association with plant roots, are trapping the carbon deep in the ground as part of the process of nutrient exchange between the fungi and plant species. Continue reading

Morning photo: Forest friends

A break from winter


A parasol mushroom growing in a forest in Upper Austria. This is a variety I’ve not yet found in Colorado, though the guidebooks say a similar species does grow in the U.S.

FRISCO — After writing a story about the importance of biodiversity, I went back to a folder from last July to look over the mushroom images I shot during a few forest visits in Austria. The biodiversity story got me thinking about how some of the mushrooms I found in Europe were completely different from anything I’ve ever seen in the West, while a few other species were almost identical. Why is it that some species are common on both sides of the Atlantic, while others are more specialized to either the Rockies or the forests of Central Europe? I’m not really sure, but I think it has something to do with the plant communities. Since some fungi are in specialized symbiotic relationships with certain species of shrubs and trees, they may not be able to grow if those plants are present. Maintaining healthy forests requires making sure that all the constituent elements of the ecosystem are there, and in Colorado, we know so little about the fungi that are a key part of the ecology that we may just be stumbling in the dark. Continue reading

Researchers find potential biocontrol for bed bugs

The life cycle of a bedbug. Image courtesy EPA.

Naturally occurring fungus may help where chemical pesticides are failing

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The resurgence of common bedbugs is partly due to their increase resistance to insecticides — like many other nuisance species, they’ve evolved to develop an immunity to the toxins. But a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania say they may have discovered the key to effective biocontrol of the nuisance bugs — a natural fungus that causes disease in insects.

In the study, the researchers used an airbrush sprayer to apply spore formulations of the Beauveria bassiana fungus to paper and cotton jersey, a common bed sheet material. Then control surfaces, again paper and cotton jersey, were sprayed with blank oil only. The surfaces were allowed to dry at room temperature overnight. Continue reading

Morning photo: A few more fungi

Mushrooms are popping!

Mid-day sun backlights the gill of this wild Colorado mushroom. In this iPhone shot, I also used an Instagram filter to enhance the colors.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Tis the season — for fungi, that is, as monsoon moisture has help spur a good crop of wild forest mushrooms. While some people see them as the equivalent of low-life slugs, mushrooms are actually a vital and little understood component of forest ecosystems. Along with helping to break down dead leaves, grass and branches, the underground part of the fungal organisms interact with the roots of trees and other plants, helping to foster a nutrient cycle and maintaining a chemical balance in the forest floor. Continue reading


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,253 other followers