"The temperature is reducing their ability to eat the carbon in the soil," said Steven Allison of the University of California, Irvine. "These are fungi that live up in Alaska, which is typically a pretty cold place, so they may not be adapted to deal with these higher temperatures."
He added that the mushrooms’ ability to decrease their own CO2 emissions may compensate for as much as 10% of the CO2 produced by human activities.
The findings — published in the journal Global Change Biology — were somewhat unexpected, Allison said. The scientists had theorised initially that fungi in dry areas of the northern hemisphere would produce carbon dioxide faster. Mushrooms that grow in cooler, wetter soil emit less CO2 than those in drier regions of the north, the researchers said.
About 30% of northern (or boreal) forests are in dry areas where the fungi’s effects might be felt. The other 70% of those forests are in wetter climates expected to emit more CO2 as the planet warms, Allison said.
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