Whether you're standing in a forest, on a field of grass, or even on that square of soil that surrounds a tree planted along a city sidewalk, under your feet is vast network of fungal filaments. Finer than a thread of cotton, these fungal networks—also called mycelium—are crucial to the health of plants, since they provide nutrients to the plants' roots, and for storing carbon in soil. To increase our understanding of this vital part of the ecosystem, a new nonprofit is setting out to map—and eventually help preserve—the world's fungal networks.
Society for the Protection of Underground Networks (SPUN), the nonprofit announcing this mapping effort. Kiers, a professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, has been researching the "architecture" of these fungal networks to better understand how they trade resources with plants—exchanging nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus for carbon—and how their behavior might change under different conditions, like if the global temperature increases.
Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures ; and founder of the Fungi Foundation, Giuliana Furci. SPUN's governing board also includes former Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario and former Nature Conservancy CEO Mark Tercek.
soils store 75% of all terrestrial carbon—three times more than living plants and animals—and these fungal networks are an important part of that. "We're trying to rally around the living stitch that's holding it together, the seam—that's the fungi," Kiers says.
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