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Root Fungi – The Most Important Carbon Sink in Northern Forests


dfgtghtrA study published in the latest issue of Science, reveals that tree root fungi sequester most of the carbon in the northern boreal forests.

The findings contradict the conclusions from previous research, which indicate that sequestration happens via dead needles, moss and organic matter.

For the study, the team collected and analysed soil samples from 30 islands in the northern part of Sweden. The researchers were able to find the answer to the debatable issue regarding the exact process of carbon sequestration in boreal forests.

They established that instead of having the carbon deposits near the surface, as suggested by previous research, sequestrated carbon was found much deeper in the soil. The reason for this is the fact that trees carry carbon down to their root system via sugars, which are eaten by specific kind of fungi. The residue is then discarded in the soil.

Difference in decomposition rates were found to cause variation in the amount of  carbon in soils due to root fungi, however the findings showed that up to 70% of carbon is stored in the soil via this process.

According to the researchers, around 16% of stored carbon is found in the northern boreal forests. Carbon sequestration and global warming are closely related, as the release of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere increases the temperatures.

Scientists, however, are still debating whether forest growth due to warmer temperatures in the northern regions will influence the rate of release of sequestrated carbon.

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