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Fungi and Carbon Sequestration
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Hi Eric!
I recently came across an study from the Yale Climate and Energy Institute showing that fungi, not plants, account for the sequestration of carbon in boreal forests (very far northern forests). Here's the link for reference (though I imagine you know of this) http://climate.yale.edu/news/fungi-not-plants-drive-long-term-carbon-sequestration-boreal-forest.

Can you comment on the role of mycelium and fungi in carbon sequestration? And possibly the numbers relative to climate?

I realize that these data may apply only to these far north forests, where conifers predominate, vs more deciduous, long-lived trees.

Thank you! Looking forward to attending your talk in Vermont this weekend.

All best,

I also came across similar information (that carbon sequestration is based on certain soil conditions vs. larger numbers of trees) while attending a presentation on a project in a far north boreal forest. The project involves actually removing trees, restoring more of an original grassland that once flourished there, and even introducing a rugged horse species to replace the ancient wild horses that were found to have once lived there before too many trees invaded and diminished their natural grasslands. And this was all in the name of carbon sequestering. It surprised me to hear that grasslands and grazers/browsers were considered, in some very unique situations, more valuable than trees that had moved themselves into the grasslands over the years.
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Barb Adams wrote: in some very unique situations

This is the part people tend to gloss over, I think.
Tyler Ludens wrote:
Barb Adams wrote: in some very unique situations

This is the part people tend to gloss over, I think.

Tyler, I think you're very right. I just hope that as we continue to learn, we don't throw out the "some very unique situations" along with the entire idea of grazing as something that can never work. I realize the world was a different place back when the buffalo roamed the grass prairies, but I still want to understand if and how grazing can occasionally play a contributing role, without developing polarized opinions from groups of people either for all grazing, or against all grazing.
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It sounds like a really interesting study because, in most cases, forests sequester much more carbon than grasslands. Does anyone have any more on it? It sounds like the kind of thing that would be done as ecosystem restoration rather than carbon capture, so I'd be fascinated to learn their reasoning.

Tyler is right about the bit about glossing over the fact that it's unique situations. There is a lot of overgeneralisation goes on, and we are not innocent of that on this site. As we've been discussing on another thread (http://www.permies.com/t/54718//Estimating-carbon-capture-perennial-crop), most pastures sequester much less carbon than what we call forest gardens. You then get people generalising from the exceptions to all pastured livestock to continuing to eat meat.

Here in the UK, there are ongoing debates about land management for conservation. In far too many cases that's "conservation" of grouse moor or species-impoverished sheep grazing, often for reasons of some sort of "landscape value" that always seem to coincide with the interests of landowners.

This article discusses how arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (found in grasslands) can be net emitters of carbon. https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22228-fungi-could-thwart-carbon-capture-efforts/
Is this the restoration project with horses? http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/project/Projects/index.cfm?fuseaction=search.dspPage&n_proj_id=2599.0
Tyler and Neil, the link Tyler provided looked similar, but in the case I learned about via lecture, there were no farmers or local people involved at all that I can remember. I live in Washington State USA and heard the lecture there. I'll try to relocate the platform that offered the lecture in the first place, then see if they have information on it in their archives. Then post more info here if I find it.
Do you remember if they restored the horse predators as well?
Tyler, great question and no I don't recall. I do remember thinking of them as brilliant people taking everything into consideration. They showed slides of their trip there, sounded like a gruesome trip to me. Hoards of mosquitoes so thick it almost seemed the mosquitoes themselves could be a natural predator to young mammals. I recall feeling sort of sorry for the horses put there, but don't recall what triggered that emotion (like, was it just sentimental as it would be if it were my own pet horses dropped off there, or based on a genuine concern I heard during the lecture).

I found the group who hosted the lecture, and now have an inquiry with them. It was Friends of Skagit Beaches, an environmental group. The lecture was presented, I think, the first or second week of January 2015. Hope to get an answer from them soon.
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I get this question a lot, about the role of various microbes and fungi and so forth in carbon sequestration. These organisms play critical role in converting dead plant biomass into soil organic matter, which is the primary repository of carbon in the soil. However the carbon itself is removed from the atmosphere by plants through photosynthesis. My focus in the book is looking at the practices that we can perform, that is the farm management systems that make this process happen, though of course much of the mechanism of transfer of that carbon happens through various non-plant organisms in the soil. But the question to me is what do we need to do to make that happen? Planting more trees on farms is one of the key steps we can take.
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And I forgot to mention, yes that study is correct. Between 10 and 40% of the sugars formed from photosynthesis are exuded from plant roots within an hour of photosynthesis! These feed the soil organisms and are one of the mechanisms by which carbon stored in the soil.
Tyler and Neil, I was at least able to get a pdf of the poster advertising the lecture given in early January 2015, which gives a bit of information that might lead to further info if you search it. Neil, I do think it was eco-system restoration, but my recollection of the lecture (which was more than a year ago) was discussing its role in climate change and carbon sequestration.


(Editing -- this link seems to work sometimes, other times it sends it to an error. So I cut and pasted the bit from the poster that described the study:

Twenty thousand years ago mammoths roamed a tundra ecosystem that stretched from France to China. Could that ecosystem be restored?
Could it help us fight climate change?
Dr.Andy Bunn has spent more than a decade researching the rapid changes in the Arctic and the complex
relationship between climate and vegetation.
Come and learn more about his findings.

Andy Bunn, Ph. D
Dept. of Environmental Science
Western Washington University

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Twenty thousand years ago mammoths roamed a tundra ecosystem that stretched from France to China. Could that ecosystem be restored?
Could it help us fight climate change?

Seems like an odd idea that a landscape which formed during an Ice Age would be at all appropriate as temperatures become hotter. Almost none of the animals who lived in that ecosystem exist anymore, having gone extinct, so any "restoration" would be fake.

Is it even slightly appropriate to consider cutting down forest to "restore" an extinct ecosystem from another climatic era, so different from our own?

Well that's what the lecture was about, and why they had questions and answers at the end, to explain the depths of a project one can't comprehend from a quick surface description.
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