Fungal Carbon Sequestration

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Science  29 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6127, pp. 1528-1529
DOI: 10.1126/science.1236338

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Many soil fungi consist of small, delicate hyphae that permeate a complex matrix of soil particles (see the figure). They are easily damaged, making it difficult to directly observe their activities under undisturbed conditions. On page 1615 of this issue, Clemmensen et al. (1) use isotopic and molecular techniques to infer that a common group of fungi, the mycorrhizal fungi, can sequester carbon in the soil. This is important because carbon stored in soil over long periods can help to offset the release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Most fungal species act as decomposers that elicit a net release of CO2 to the atmosphere, but mycorrhizal fungi could be a notable exception.