Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are the ancient, ancestral form of mycorrhizal symbiosis. These fungi played a key part in the movement of plants’ ancestors onto dry land. By the time the first roots evolved, the mycorrhizal association was already some 50 million years old.

Biodiversity Hotspot

A biodiversity hotspot is a unique region which is a) threatened by human activity b) contains at least 1500 endemic vascular plants not found elsewhere and c) retains 30% or less of its original vegetation.

Bioinformatics Pipeline

A bioinformatics pipeline uses software algorithms to store, organize, and analyze biological data relative to genomic sequencing.


A geographical area defined by its distinct flora and fauna. Biomes are characterised by the specific biological communities and species that have formed in response to the physical environment, such as soil types and climate. SPUN and our partners are working to have funga included as a defining factor of biomes. Biomes are made of ecoregions.

Carbon Sequestration

The process of fixing, capturing, or removing carbon from the atmosphere and/or storing it in a carbon pool. This is a naturally occurring process. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Mycorrhizal fungi help draw carbon into soil systems. 75% of all terrestrial carbon is stored underground. Carbon is stored in plants, soil, and oceans, and fungi.

Citizen Science

Collaboration between members of the general public and scientists for the purpose of collecting and analyzing data of the natural world.

Climate Change

Long term changes to the average weather and temperature patterns which define Earth’s climate. Causes may be natural or man-made. The current period of climate change (the Anthropocene) is man-made, originating with the Industrial Revolution and burning of fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and gas.

DNA Extraction

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) extraction, first accomplished in 1896, is the process whereby DNA is separated and isolated from other cellular components. SPUN uses DNA extraction as a method to isolate and identify the mycorrhizal strains present in soil samples.


Another name for an ecosystem, but defined by the RESOLVE database. Biodiversity within ecoregions is more similar within the ecoregion compared to outside or between ecoregions. Groups of ecoregions constitute biomes.


An ecosystem is formed by interactions between organisms and their environment, and can be any size. The components can be both biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living). Examples of ecosystems are forests, grasslands, coral reefs, deserts, rainforests and tundra.

Ecosystem Biodiversity

Ecosystem biodiversity refers to variations between ecosystems. An ecosystem is comprised of its organisms, their environment, and the interactions between the two. Ecosystem diversity is the study of different ecosystems and types of diversity, such as species, genetic, and functional variation.

Ectomycorrhizal Fungi

Trees in most boreal and temperate forests depend on ectomycorrhizal associations. Unlike arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, ectomycorrhizal fungi do not grow into plant cells (”ecto” means outside).


Funga refers to diversity of fungal communities. It is the Fauna and Flora equivalent to the kingdom of Fungi. The term was coined and introduced in 2018 by Kuhar, Furci, Drechsler-Santos, and Pfister.

Fungal biodiversity

Fungal biodiversity refers to the variety of fungus on the planet. Fungal biodiversity may be used, for example, to measure soil quality and fertility.


Fungi is the plural of fungus. Fungus are the group of eukaryotic organisms known collectively as the kingdom of fungi, which includes mushrooms, molds, yeasts, rusts, mildews, and smuts.

Google Earth Engine

GEE (Google Earth Engine) is the infrastructure required to train, test, and launch global predictive models of mycorrhizal biodiversity and function.

Ground Truthing

Ground truthing is the process of obtaining, by direct measurement, facts about a given situation, i.e soil microbial populations. It is used to check the accuracy of models and predictions against real observable conditions. SPUN uses algorithms to generate predictive biodiversity hotspots, and ground truthing to check if the models are accurate.

Hyphal density

The density of hyphae in soils is an important metric of how much mycelium is made outside plant roots by mycorrhizal fungi in soils. Dense hyphal networks hold more carbon.

Metagenomics and Metatranscriptomics

In microbiology, metagenomics studies a community of organisms, for example to build a taxonomical profile of soil samples, and describe the structure and function of nucleotide sequences. Within metagenomics, metatranscriptomics are used to study the gene expression of microbes.


The population of bacteria, viruses, and fungi which populate an environment such as a soil or an organism.


Mycelium are the vegetative part of fungi, made up of hyphae; root-like structures comprised of fine filaments. A mycelium is a mass of fungus made up of a mass of hyphae.


Mycology is the study of fungi. A mycologist is a person who studies fungi.


Mycorrhiza means "fungus-root" and refers to fungal roots and the symbiotic relations between plants and fungi. Mycorrhizae are fungi which live in plant rhizospheres.

Soil Sampling

The process of collecting soil samples for genetic or chemical analysis. SPUN follows a modified version of the Silva Nova/SoilBon protocols which you can read about here.

Soil Stewardship

The practice of caring for soils and nurturing microbial communities in soil, preventing erosion and other threats to soil health, so that future generations may benefit from the resource. Soil is a finite living resource, and can take thousands of years to form.

Symbiosis and Symbiotic Associations

Symbiosis is a biological relationship between different species. Symbiotic associations can be mutualistic (mutually beneficial), commensalistic, or parasitic. Members of different species in symbiotic interactions are symbionts.


Uncertainty is the quantification of the unknown, a key process in science. Quantifying uncertainty and how it propagates through our stack of data to our prediction layers is important to identify the source of uncertainty. SPUN research is guided by uncertainty, helping us map the Earth’s least explored ecosystems: namely, where environments and ecoregions are not covered by our current database, where our predictions are have high uncertainty, but are not environmentally unique, and sub-pixel error where we lack information below our prediction resolution

Underground Explorers

Underground Explorers is a program through which SPUN collaborates with scientists, researchers, and local communities to map mycorrhizal fungal networks in their respective home ecosystems. Click here to read more about the Underground Explorers Program.