Mushrooms can change lifestyles in response to climate change

Mushrooms can change lifestyles in response to climate change
Mushrooms can change lifestyles in response to climate change

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have found that mushroom communities can have different lifestyles as the climate in which they grow changes. These results will find application in computer models simulating various ecosystems. A report on the discovery was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Societies of Agronomy, Crop and Soil Science.

When we think about climate change, we tend to think about greenhouse gases, fossil fuels, and environmental pollution. But we don't think about mushrooms at all. However, mushrooms can influence and respond to climate change by changing lifestyles, according to new research. According to the authors of the new work, it is important to be able to predict which places will be affected by climate change and how quickly it will happen. This will allow taking timely measures and preserving plant and animal ecosystems.

The new work analyzes how mushrooms "decide" to use excess energy - for the decomposition of materials and the extraction of food or for other processes. Mushrooms don't just release carbon. They can also store it. For example, environmental stressors can cause these organisms to start strengthening their cell walls. They do this using organic compounds containing carbon, which can remain in soils for years to decades or even longer.

To find out how mushrooms respond to different climates, researchers traveled to Alaska and Costa Rica. These places were not chosen by chance: the forests located in them are under the threat of climate change and are most susceptible to related factors. Scientists have exposed areas of forests to drought-like conditions and milder environments. They then collected soil samples from various experimental sites.

The authors then analyzed the proteins synthesized by fungi in response to climate change. These products served as indicators of the processes taking place inside the mushrooms: scientists tried to find out which process the mushrooms preferred - the decomposition of the organic matter around them or the strengthening of the cell walls.

“We found that where the drought intensified, there was more fungi that strengthened cell walls and were less likely to degrade organic compounds,” said Kathleen Trezeder, one of the researchers at the University of California, Irvine. - And in more moderate conditions, the opposite happened. Fungi have become more common, using their energy to decompose."

These results indicate that fungi may store more carbon in response to climate change and associated increases in temperature and carbon dioxide levels. On the other hand, they can emit more carbon dioxide in temperate climates.