Global mycorrhizal networks: untangling the wood wide web
Introduction The functioning of forest ecosystems
Through a long-term collaboration with Stanford University, the Crowther Lab generated the first spatially explicit map of forest symbiotic status of mycorrhizal fungi. Similar to an MRI that helps to understand the functioning of the brain, this global map of fungal networks helps us understand the functioning of forest ecosystems and their reaction to climate change.
Our researchA symbiotic partnership between trees and mycorrhizal fungi
In order to understand which type of mycorrhizal fungi dominates in which regions, and how their abundance can impact the success of forest restoration and conservation activities, we analysed 1.2 million forest inventory plots containing over 28,000 tree species around the world.
Our researchUsing machine learning to generate a holistic understanding
Additionally, training our models using these machine learning algorithms, we now have the first spatially explicit map of mycorrhizal fungi across the Earths’ forest systems.
Results A global map of the wood wide web
ResultsThe influence of climate on ecosystems
If human carbon emissions continue unabated to 2100, our results show a 10 percent reduction in the world’s ectomycorrhizal fungi. As these fungi facilitate the uptake of carbon into the soil, these could cause a feedback loop which ultimately increases atmospheric carbon levels.
For anyone aiming to restore trees in any region around the world, the resulting maps can provide critical insights into which types of trees can be supported in those regions.
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