Elements S4 • E97

This Underground Economy Exists in a Secret Fungi Kingdom





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Published on Oct 2, 2019

We now have a new understanding of the underground ecosystem. It turns out that fungi barter and trade with other organisms like little stockbrokers.
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New research has revealed that fungi barter and trade with other organisms, meaning there’s basically an entire economy of nutrients right beneath our feet that we are only just uncovering.

Possibly the most widely distributed organisms on Earth, fungi exist everywhere on Earth from the North Pole to the South Pole.

Fungi take elements like carbon that are trapped in organic matter, and through decomposition, process and release them back into the ecosystem for other organisms to use. Fungi do this by releasing a cocktail of enzymes and other helpful chemicals that allow them to break down organic material outside of their bodies so they can more easily digest the nutrients...this is how fungi cause decay.

But the thing is, fungi are more than just their essential role as nutrient cyclers—fungi that work with plants in this way can grow into structures called hyphae, or delicate thread-like tendrils that push into a plants’ roots forming mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae are symbiotic relationships that exist between fungi and the plants they glom on to.

In exchange for the essential nutrients that fungi provide for the plants, plants in return, form carbohydrates through photosynthesis and provide fungi with sugars creating a worldwide network of nutrient exchanges that occur between all kinds of microbes. The whole system is known as the Wood Wide Web.

And a research team in Amsterdam recently found that these nutrient exchanges might operate almost like an economy.

Learn more about this underground economy in the secret fungi kingdom on this episode of Elements.

#Fungi #Economy #Ecosystem #Plants #Seeker #Science #Elements

How These Bacteria Become Electrical Cables That Could Power Our World

Read More:
Behind the Scenes: How Fungi Make Nutrients Available to the World
"To break down lignin, white rot fungi use strong enzymes, proteins that speed up chemical reactions. These enzymes split many of lignin's chemical bonds, turning it into simple sugars and releasing carbon dioxide into the air. White rot is still better at rending lignin than any other type of fungus"

Hidden Partners: Mycorrhizal Fungi and Plants
"Fungi are microscopic cells that usually grow as long threads or strands called hyphae, which push their way between soil particles, roots, and rocks. "

Mycorrhizal networks in ecosystem structure and functioning
"As mycorrhizal fungi tend to be non-specific in their choice of hosts, many plants can be linked through fungal hyphae in a common mycelial network (CMN). These networks can be enormous, with around 200m of mycorrhizal fungal hyphae present in a single gram of typical forest soil."


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