Photograph by Andrea Watts
U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station Science Findings
If all the fungi within a half gram of forest soil were lined up, they would form a line that’s half a mile long. That same half gram of soil includes bacteria that number in the hundreds of thousands. These fungi and bacteria, through their nutrient cycling and other valuable ecosystem services, sustain the forests that dominate the Pacific Northwest. It’s why mycologists joke that trees are the photosynthetic appendages of fungi.
“Fungi play so many critical roles in the soils and for the trees,” explains Jane Smith, a research botanist with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station. “For example, saprobic fungi decompose plant materials and cycle nutrients that the plants can absorb, and ectomycorrhizal fungi, which colonize roots of trees and shrubs, bring nutrients to the plants in exchange for the carbon produced during photosynthesis.” Read more…