A unique nonprofit has made it their mission for underground fungi to be mapped, especially those that exist beneath the surface of the earth. This has come under the jurisdiction of The Society for the Protection of Underground Networks, who announced on Tuesday that it had come across the single largest donation ever that would help map and protect these underground fungal networks that would help in the storage of carbon while transporting the nutrients throughout the soil.
Jane Goodall, the Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace stated that this was quite an extremely important conservation project as the basic understanding of how underground fungal networks work would be essential to humanity’s efforts of protecting the soil.
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Funding Received For Mapping For Underground Network Of Fungi
Jane Goodall, who leads the project, is one of the most prominent writers as well as conservationists who have been acting as advisors on the fungi to be mapped. She would be in the team along with Michael Pollan, Giuliana Furci, and Merlin Sheldrake.
This project does come up from a developing understanding of the importance of fungal networks for trees and a few other plants. These fungi would be allowing trees to share nutrients through something that has been called the Wood Wide Web, as explained by BBC News. The network is understudied but extremely extensive, stretching for almost 450 quadrillion kilometers- almost half of the width of the Milky Way galaxy.
However, the fungi to be mapped are threatened by human activities including fertilizers, agriculture, deforestation, urbanization, and pesticides. Despite this, plans that have been made to protect biodiversity hotspots ignore almost 50% of the life below the soil. Pollan stated that the decision for fungal mapping wasn’t just a moment too soon, as the public is getting more aware of the importance of the mycelial underground to the health of this planet and our own survival as a species. SPUN’s major idea is to use machine learning in order to identify the fungal hotspots for biodiversity, after which they would be taking 10,000 samples from the ecosystems over the next 18 months.
Fungi Map Could Be A Vital Ally While Fighting Climate Change
The first collection of fungi to be mapped will take place in April 2022 in the highlands of Patagonia. Other potential hotspots include the Mexican plateau, the Canadian tundra, the western Sahara, Morocco, Israel’s Negev Desert, Kazakhstan’s steppes, Russia’s taiga, and Tibet’s grasslands. Once the fungal maps are done, SPUN has hopes of identifying the underground ecosystems that are at risk the most, while making plans to protect them.
The donation that will make this possible has come from the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust. Jeremy Grantham, who has donated close to 98% of his net worth in fighting the climate crisis recently stated that just below our feet lies an ally that could wage a war against climate change- fungi to be mapped. Billions of tons of CO2 flows through the plants into these fungal networks. And yet, these carbon sinks are extremely poorly understood. While working with the map to harness this resource, the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks has been pioneering a completely new chapter in conservation at a global scale.
Image credit: 123Rf