Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Bugs expose underground carbon traffic system 10 times more important than fossil fuel burning


The flow of carbon through soil is ten times greater than the amount of carbon moved around by the burning of fossil fuel but until now how this happens was at best poorly understood. Soil was almost literally a black box to scientists interested in carbon. Now researchers at the University of Warwick have been able to shed light in that black box by getting a particular class of insects to expose the key underground carbon traffic system - by eating it.

The University of Warwick team worked with researchers from Aberdeen, Lancaster and Sheffield, to try and establish if plant associated fungi - arbulscar mycorrhizal (AM) fungi - found on the roots of 80% of all land plants had any role in the movement of atmospheric carbon to soil (fixed by plants in the form of CO2). AM fungi produce filaments that spread widely throughout the soil (sometimes referred to as the mycorrhizosphere) and they are known to be important for effective uptake by plants of water and phosphates but they were not known to play any role in the movement of carbon through the soil.

The researchers developed novel soil cores that were engineered with openings covered by nylon mesh with tiny pores just big enough to allow AM mycelia to grow into them but too small for any insects or other micro-fauna (including Collembola, soil mites) to get into the cores. The cores were then filled with soil which was frozen -80oC to kill any other insects/microfauna and inserted into experimental grassland to enable colonization by AM fungi from the surrounding plants. Twenty mites from the order Collembola, which would view the AM mycelia as food stuff, were introduced to half of the cores. After another four weeks the grassland was exposed to a particular form of carbon dioxide (a stable isotope of carbon, 13C) for 7 hours, a technique called pulse labelling. Concentration of 13C in cores was then analysed. The soil cores which were exposed to the mites were found to have 32% less 13C than the control cores. This showed that Collembola’s consumption of the arbulscar mycorrhizal mycelia had disrupted a key pathway transporting carbon from plants to soil.

As a final check the researchers examined both the cores with and without Collembola for a particular phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) that is characteristic for AM mycelia. They found that this particular PLFA contained significant amounts of 13C in cores not exposed to Collembola. However those soil cores that were exposed to collembola which fed on the mycorrhizal mycelia did not have 13C enriched PFLAs..

This research establishes that arbuscular mycorrhizal mycelia provide a major highway in terms of transporting carbon from plants to soil. This new understanding of how both mycorrhizal mycelia and the insect population of soil impact on the transport of carbon will assist researchers trying to understand what preserves a healthy soil and provides recycled carbon for supporting below ground biodiversity. It will also open up a new understanding of the food-webs and nutrient flow in soil which is fundamental to sustainable agriculture.

Peter Dunn | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>