Giant trees- a factory of carbon processing and life saving medicines
By Jayant Sarnaik | Project Leader
Fungi and giant trees-1
While on the ground work on mapping giant trees and rewarding the custodians is progressing steadily. we thought of taking a stock of scientific research that is going on to understand the role of fungi in mitigating climate change by sequestering large amounts of carbon in the soil and also provide vital medicines to cure diseases such as COVID. Significant research has been carried out to understand role of fungi in supplying us with critical vitamins such as B2, B3, B5 and D.
Results from recent research on assessing potential of fungi in storing and retaining carbon in the soil highlight the interconnectedness and interdependence of fungis with and on the host plants/ trees- one that dates back more than 400 million years. The fungi colonize plant roots and extend far beyond their hosts to provide nutrients that are critical for growth of the plant. In return, the plants supply sugars made from carbon dioxide absorbed from the air during photosynthesis. Through this process, plants/ trees send the mycorrhizal fungi nearly 4 gigatons of carbon each year. This equates to nearly the annual emissions of the USA and China combined. These fungi assume the form of soil organic matter and help the soil to retain carbon. Some 75% ot the terrestrial cabon is stored in soil.
After going through these recent research papers on the topic, we clearly understand the critical role giant trees play in processing carbon dioxide from the air in large quantities and passing it on to the fungi growing underground along their vast network of roots in form of sugars. In the process these trees supply us with life saving oxygen. There is growing interest in estimating large soil organic carbon pools beneath the giant trees due to the recent research on fungal network and how they enrich the soil with carbon which they have initially received from the host tree in form of sugar. The studies on carbon sequestration of old growth forest indicate that these small assamblages of giant trees spread over across the world absorb as much as 10% of total carbon dixoide emissions globally which is very significant.
Our inclination / habit to look at the things in isolation rather than understand the interconnectedness among all the creatures of nature has brought us in this situation where we need to find solutions to the formidable environmental challenges such as climate change and loss of biodiversity. We take solace in the fact that we had understood the symbiotic relationships between different species and have immense clarity about the fact the large trees are our best bait and strong line of defence while fighting climate change and avoiding biodiversity loss.
Thanks for your interest in and support to this important cause.
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