Headline, August 08 2022/ ''' '' ORIGIN -LIFE- ORIGIN '' '''

''' '' ORIGIN -LIFE-

 ORIGIN '' '''

THE WORLD STUDENTS SOCIETY IS THE EXCLUSIVE OWNERSHIP of every student in the world. The Ecosystem, the financials, scholarships, honours, endowments, funds, - all  belong to the students of the whole world.

DR. TOBY KIERS TOOK LONG STRIDES across the spongy forest floor, felt the adrenaline rush in her veins and stopped at precisely the spot she had traveled so far to reach.

Into the ground went a hollow metal cylinder. Of came a scoop of soil. Dr. Kiers stuck her nose into the dirt, inhaled its scent, imagined what secrets it contained to help us live on a hotter planet. ''What's under here?'' she asked. ''What mysteries are we going to unveil?''

The soil was deposited into a clear plastic bag, then labeled with the coordinates of this location on Earth.

Dr. Kiers, an evolutionary biologist at the Free University of Amsterdam, is on a novel mission. She is probing a vast and poorly understood universe of underground fungi that can be vital, in her view, in the era of climate change.

SOME SPECIES of fungi can store exceptional levels of carbon underground, keeping it out of the air and preventing it from heating up the Earth's atmosphere. Others help plants survive brutal droughts or fight off pests. There are those especially good at feeding nutrients to crops, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.

In short, they are what she called ''levers'' to address the hazards of a warming climate. Yet they remain a mystery.

Dr. Kiers wants to know which species of fungus are where, what they do and which should be immediately protected. In short, she wants to create an atlas of all that we cannot see. All that is right under our feet.

''Its seeing Earth's metabolism,'' she said. ''Who is there? What is their function? Right now, we are concerned so heavily on the overground, we are literally missing half the picture.''

Beneath our feet, fungal networks are an intriguing ally in efforts to tame global warming. The research is focused on mycorrhizal fungi, a type that clings to roots and has a symbiotic relationship with plants.

This network is like a secret Silk Road. Fungi give the trees much needed nutrients extracted from the soil. In exchange, the trees supply carbon they've pulled from the air by photosynthesis. Fungi need carbon to grow. Carbon travels one way, and nutrients like phosphorus the other. This underground entanglement is vital to life above.

By one estimate, five billion tons of carbon flow from plants to mycorrhizal fungi annually. Without help from the fungi, the carbon would most likely stay in the atmosphere, as carbon dioxide, the powerful greenhouse gas that is heating the planet and fuelling dangerous weather.

''Keeping this fungal network protected is paramount, as we face climate change,'' Dr. Kiers said.

In addition, the biodiversity of underground fungi is a huge factor in soil health, which is crucial to the world's ability to feed itself as the planet warms.

Specific knowledge of the power of these networks, said Tim G. Benton, a biologist at Leeds University who isn't involved in Dr. Kiers work, is ''very patchy.'' ''More information would be very valuable,'' he said.

FUNGI MADE THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT. As some of the first lifeforms on the planet, they consumed minerals locked in rocks, creating what we know now as soil. Without them, there would be no plants on land, and therefore, no animals and no us.

Dr. Kiers's expedition to southern Chile aims to fill in some of the gaps in knowledge about fungi, specifically the mycorrhizal fungi that live symbiotically with plant roots and drive carbon into the soil. That function is what gives them such an urgent role on a hotter planet.

''Mycorrhizal networks,'' Dr. Kiers said, ''are a major global carbon sink.'' The expedition was shaped by Big Data. With the help of scientists in Switzerland, an algorithm had crunched all kinds of information  - temperature, soil moisture, types of trees - and deduced where in the world Dr. Kiers might find high and low levels of underground fungal biodiversity.

Then it offered coordinates, as if to say, ''Go here, take a soil sample, see if I'm right.''

For their first expedition, in Chile, the researchers arrived at each location, pinpointed by the algorithm, drew a grid 30 meters by 30 meters, or about 100 feet square, collected spoonfuls of soil, bagged it and sent it to the local lab for genetic analysis.

So little is known about fungi that they are not even counted in the Convention on Biodiversity, the global treaty aimed at protecting nature. That treaty is aimed at plants and animals. Fungo are neither. They make up a separate kingdom of life altogether.

Underground, mycorrhizal fungi are crucial trading partners. Trees crave the nutrients they offer. Fungo gobble up the carbon that trees provide in return.

To understand this kingdom, Fungi aficionados, is to see the natural world differently - less as a collection of individual species, with humans dominating them all, and more as a web of organisms dealing with crises together.

The Honour and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research on Universe, Earth and Formation, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Somini Sengupta.

With respectful dedication to the Scientists, Researchers, and then Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all prepare and register for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society -the exclusive ownership of every student in the world : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter - !E-WOW! -  The Ecosystem 2011.

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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