From: University of New Hampshire
Published April 12, 2017 12:37 PM

Researchers Find Mushrooms May Hold Clues to Effect of Carbon Dioxide on Lawns

Since the Industrial Revolution, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has rapidly increased. Researchers at the University of New Hampshire set out to determine how rising carbon dioxide concentrations and different climates may alter vegetation like forests, croplands, and 40 million acres of American lawns. They found that the clues may lie in an unexpected source, mushrooms.

The researchers focused on American lawns because they knew that grass can play a key role in the global carbon cycle because it pulls carbon out of the atmosphere during photosynthesis; the process used by plants to absorb and harness energy from sunlight and convert it into chemical energy. Most lawns across the United States are similar, but differ regionally in their relative proportions of two main types of grasses, C3 grasses and C4 grasses, which use different metabolic pathways for photosynthesis. However, unlike trees, which build rings year after year, grass leaves little behind to study, so researchers got creative turning to mushrooms which feed on the carbon in lawns.

“We thought that mushrooms could be a valuable indicator of responses of lawns to carbon dioxide levels in ecosystems because they feed on the dead grass and debris, or carbon, that lawns or other plants put into the ground,” said Erik Hobbie, research professor of terrestrial ecology at UNH and lead author on the study. “Since it is challenging to measure blades of grass from grassland ecosystems over decades, we turned to mushrooms, which are widely available through previous collected specimens in labs and museums.”

Read more at University of New Hampshire

Image: Amanita thiersii is growing on a lawn. (Credit: Michael Kuo)

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