This fire-loving mushroom eats charcoal, if need be

To confirm that the fungus was actually doing what it seemed to do, Dr. Whitman’s lab grew pine seedlings in an atmosphere containing car...


To confirm that the fungus was actually doing what it seemed to do, Dr. Whitman’s lab grew pine seedlings in an atmosphere containing carbon dioxide containing carbon-13, an isotope whose unusual weight makes it easy to tracing, then put the trees in a specialized oven to form charcoal, which fed the Pyronema. Like us, fungi take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, most of which comes from what they eat. The mushroom’s carbon-13 emissions then suggested it was really munching on charcoal.

The researchers also tracked the normal carbon dioxide coming out of the fungus, and much more than the charcoal, suggesting it was eating something else – perhaps the agar it was growing on or carbon that entered during inoculation. said Dr Whitman.

Dr Fischer offered this interpretation: “Pyronema can eat charcoal, but he really doesn’t like to. Fungi can take advantage of this layer of dead organisms first, the authors suggested, and then switch to charcoal when needed.

“Fungi are amazing at breaking down all kinds of compounds,” said Kathleen Treseder, an environmentalist at the University of California at Irvine, who was not involved in the study. “It makes sense that they would be able to break down this pyrolyzed material.” Aditi Sengupta, a soil microbial ecologist at the Lutheran University of California who was also not involved, added that it would be useful to confirm the experiment outside of the lab and in nature.

If this fungus breaks down charcoal after a fire, Dr Fischer said – even a little – it could help open up a food source for the next generation of microbes and other creatures that cannot eat charcoal. wood, making Pyronema an important player in fire recovery. And if Pyronema can do it, she said, maybe other fungi can too.

“We want this kind of activity in the soil,” said Dr Sengupta. At the same time, she stressed that “it could eventually cause us to lose carbon in the soil”. As climate change and other human actions result in more frequent and intense forest fires, we need to understand whether the carbon stored in the soil in the form of charcoal will stay there, Dr Treseder said, “or if it’s not something we can really rely on because the fungus can degrade it and release it in the form of CO2 “.

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Newsrust - US Top News: This fire-loving mushroom eats charcoal, if need be
This fire-loving mushroom eats charcoal, if need be
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