Nav: Home

Breaking down wood decomposition by fungi

May 11, 2020

SUMMARY
Through a combination of lab and field experiments, researchers have developed a better understanding of the factors accounting for different wood decomposition rates among fungi. The new findings reveal how an understanding of fungal trait variation can improve the predictive ability of early and mid-stage wood decay, a critical driver of the global carbon cycle.

THE SITUATION
Fungi play a key role in the global carbon cycle as the main decomposers of litter and wood. While current earth system models represent only little of the functional variation in microbial groups, fungi differ greatly in their decomposing ability. The researchers set out to find which traits best explain fungal decomposition ability to help improve the current models.

THE FINDINGS
  • The hyphal extension rate-or fungal growth rate-is the strongest single predictor of fungal-mediated wood decomposition.
  • Decomposing ability varies along a spectrum from slow-growing, stress-tolerant fungi that are poor decomposers, to fast-growing, highly competitive fungi that have fast decomposition rates.
  • Slow growing, stress-tolerant fungi with poor intrinsic wood decaying abilities are more likely to exist in drier forests with high precipitation seasonality. In contrast, fast-growing, highly competitive fungi tend to be found in more favorable environments and decompose wood more quickly, regardless of the local microclimate.
FROM THE RESEARCHERS
"Fungi are largely hidden players. We know they are critical for cycling carbon but it has been difficult to determine the effects of different decomposers in causing fast or slow decomposition. As we identify who fungal decomposers are in rotting logs and what allows a particular species to affect these rates, we can better predict carbon cycling around the globe under current and future climates. Our study takes a first step towards this, pairing complementary field and laboratory experiments to find that how fast different fungi grow and what enzymes they produce matter."
- Amy Zanne, associate professor of biology at the George Washington University

"Fungi differ massively in how quickly they decompose wood, releasing carbon back into the ecosystem. Our study identifies different fungal traits that explain this variation, which has great potential to improve predictions of the carbon cycle in forests."
- Nicky Lustenhouwer, lead author and postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Santa Cruz

"We show that the same processes that determine where a fungus lives--that is, its ability to displace other fungi vs. survive in stressful environments--closely aligns with its decomposition ability. This connection allows us to translate an ecological mechanism into broad-scale patterns in microbial decomposition rates, helping to address a key uncertainty in earth system models."
- Daniel Maynard, postdoctoral researcher at Crowther Lab, ETH Zurich

PUBLICATION INFORMATION
The paper, "A trait-based understanding of wood decomposition by fungi" will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of Monday, May 11.

To schedule an interview with Dr. Zanne about the new research, please contact Timothy Pierce at [email protected] or 202-994-5647.

George Washington University

Related Fungi Articles:

Breaking down wood decomposition by fungi
Through a combination of lab and field experiments, researchers have developed a better understanding of the factors accounting for different wood decomposition rates among fungi.
Impulse for research on fungi
For the first time, the cells of fungi can also be analysed using a relatively simple microscopic method.
Fungi as food source for plants
The number of plant species that extract organic nutrients from fungi could be much higher than previously assumed.
Bark beetles control pathogenic fungi
Pathogens can drive the evolution of social behaviour in insects.
Using fungi to search for medical drugs
An enormous library of products derived from more than 10,000 fungi could help us find new drugs.
Plants and fungi together could slow climate change
A new global assessment shows that human impacts have greatly reduced plant-fungus symbioses, which play a key role in sequestering carbon in soils.
Make fungi think they're starving to stop them having sex, say scientists
Tricking fungi into thinking they're starving could be the key to slowing down our evolutionary arms race with fungal pathogens, as hungry fungi don't want to have sex.
How plants react to fungi
Using special receptors, plants recognize when they are at risk of fungal infection.
Clostridium difficile infections may have a friend in fungi
The pathogen Clostridium difficile, which causes one of the most common hospital-acquired infections in the United States, may have accomplices that until now have gone largely unnoticed.
A 'crisper' method for gene editing in fungi
A team of researchers from Tokyo University of Science, Meiji University, and Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, led by Professor Takayuki Arazoe, has recently established a series of novel strategies to increase the efficiency of targeted gene disruption and new gene 'introduction' using the CRISPR/Cas9 system in the rice blast fungus Pyricularia (Magnaporthe) oryzae.
More Fungi News and Fungi Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Our Relationship With Water
We need water to live. But with rising seas and so many lacking clean water – water is in crisis and so are we. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around restoring our relationship with water. Guests on the show include legal scholar Kelsey Leonard, artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, and community organizer Colette Pichon Battle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#568 Poker Face Psychology
Anyone who's seen pop culture depictions of poker might think statistics and math is the only way to get ahead. But no, there's psychology too. Author Maria Konnikova took her Ph.D. in psychology to the poker table, and turned out to be good. So good, she went pro in poker, and learned all about her own biases on the way. We're talking about her new book "The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Uncounted
First things first: our very own Latif Nasser has an exciting new show on Netflix. He talks to Jad about the hidden forces of the world that connect us all. Then, with an eye on the upcoming election, we take a look back: at two pieces from More Perfect Season 3 about Constitutional amendments that determine who gets to vote. Former Radiolab producer Julia Longoria takes us to Washington, D.C. The capital is at the heart of our democracy, but it's not a state, and it wasn't until the 23rd Amendment that its people got the right to vote for president. But that still left DC without full representation in Congress; D.C. sends a "non-voting delegate" to the House. Julia profiles that delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and her unique approach to fighting for power in a virtually powerless role. Second, Radiolab producer Sarah Qari looks at a current fight to lower the US voting age to 16 that harkens back to the fight for the 26th Amendment in the 1960s. Eighteen-year-olds at the time argued that if they were old enough to be drafted to fight in the War, they were old enough to have a voice in our democracy. But what about today, when even younger Americans are finding themselves at the center of national political debates? Does it mean we should lower the voting age even further? This episode was reported and produced by Julia Longoria and Sarah Qari. Check out Latif Nasser's new Netflix show Connected here. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.