Underground networks of fungi store more than a third of the world’s current greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new peer-reviewed study in Current Biology

That’s a whopping 13 gigatons of carbon.

Mycorrhizal fungi act as a symbiotic partner of plants, seeking out nutrients and bringing them back to the plants’ roots. In return, they accept carbon in the form of carbohydrates—which they then lock away in the structure of the fungi. This symbiotic relationship is nothing new to scientists; what’s surprising is the magnitude of carbon stored.

But how permanent is this storage? And what can we do to support fungi as a nature-based climate solution?

In this episode, Shayle talks to Dr. Heidi-Jayne Hawkins, lead author of the new paper and research director at Conservation South Africa. 

They cover topics like:

  • The evolutionary history of mycorrhizal fungi 
  • The mechanics of fungal carbon storage, which boosts carbon storage by 5-20% more than plants alone
  • What we can do to support conditions for fungi to absorb carbon
  • Open questions about the permanence of the storage

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