SPUN July Update: Expeditions & More!

This is the first newsletter for the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks. Our aim is to keep you up to date with emerging science, expedition activity, grant opportunities, and ways to stay involved.

The SPUN Team
July 19, 2022
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Science

Keeping up with the latest mycological literature can be difficult. We will soon be adding a page to our website that highlights the latest papers in mycorrhizal research from SPUN associates and beyond. In the meantime, here are some new findings:

The role of native Fungi in restoration

Planting native prairie plants with their native mycorrhizal fungi has been shown to increase their chances of surviving by 40% See media here. Now, new research has found that reintroduction of native mycorrhizal fungi could improve the establishment of certain milkweed species that are crucial hosts for monarch butterflies. The work suggests that some commercial fungi may actually inhibit growth. See original article here.

Clever protection strategies

Mycorrhizal hyphae are full of carbon and nutrients. What keeps them from being eaten by organisms looking for a meal? New work shows how mycorrhizal fungi have evolved an arsenal of protective compounds to save them from being consumed by foraging fungivores. See original article here.

Hidden biodiversity

The new and massive IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services was released. We are pleased that root-associated fungi are mentioned: “Soils are also an important component of terrestrial carbon sinks…50–70% of the carbon in boreal forests is stored in the soils, particularly in roots and root-associated fungi" (see page 217). Next round: get a mycorrhizal shout-out in the Summary for Policy Makers. Download 1000+ page report here.

Expedition activity

Patagonia, Chile

SPUN joined the Fungi Foundation, researchers and local experts in Patagonia to ‘ground-truth’ maps of predicted mycorrhizal fungal diversity. Ground-truthing involves comparing our biodiversity hotspot predictions to actual measurements of biodiversity in the field so we can understand the uncertainty associated with our predictions.

Patagonia’s ancient rainforests contain some of the most biodiverse and productive fungal communities on Earth. Chile has a strong tradition of mycology, and with the help of the Fungi Foundation, this South American nation was one of the first in the world to grant legal protection to fungi.

The reporter Gabriel Popkin joined us in the field and wrote an article for Science which was featured on the cover. You can read the piece here, and watch clips from the fieldwork here.

We were also joined by musician and soundscape explorer Cosmo Sheldrake who used microphones to record the sounds of the soil. Soundscapes can contain valuable information about the activity of soil organisms when compared across different underground environments.

Upcoming expeditions

Together with local collaborators, we have several upcoming sampling campaigns. These include:

Utrecht, Netherlands: Mapping the richness of arbuscular mycorrhizal in urban corridors, starting with green roofs of bus stops and surrounding parks in collaboration with SPUN Science Advisor Dr. Bala Chuadhary, Justin Stewart and Liam Nokes

Apennine Mountains, Italy: Ground-truthing global map predictions for arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal fungi in the porcini-rich Chestnut forests and montane grasslands of the Apennine in collaboration with Dr. Paolo Bonfonte, Dr. Luisa Lanfranco, and Dr. Matteo Chialva

Stay tuned for more upcoming expeditions, including Palmyra Atoll in the South Pacific with The Nature Conservancy, and agroecosystems of Ecuador with Universidad San Francisco de Quito.

Grant opportunities

SPUN is working on our Underground Explorers program. Local researchers will soon have the opportunity to apply for small grants to sample soil ecosystems for fungal DNA in underexplored regions across the world. For more information, contact our expedition lead Adriana Corrales: Adriana@spun.earth.

Get involved

Join SPUN youth. Young people are demanding urgent climate action. SPUN youth works to amplify young voices by working with schools and communities. Contact us at: youth@spun.earth

Apply to become a SPUN associate. Are you a researcher who is already sampling or monitoring soil plots? Do you want to help contribute to open-source mycorrhizal maps across the Earth? For more information, visit our associates page.

Check out our updated our website with a new expeditions page.

See more beautiful photos of mycorrhizal fungi by Dr. Vasilis Kokkoris here.

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