Tradeoffs in the adaptation of fungal decomposers to global warming

Blue mushroomsAlaska greenhouse

Particularly in boreal forests, fungi are key players in the conversion of soil carbon into atmospheric carbon dioxide. It remains unclear how fast this process will speed up under global warming. In collaboration with Dr. Kathleen Treseder at UCI and Dr. John Taylor at UC Berkeley, we are testing the hypothesis that fungi will degrade resistant soil carbon more readily as the climate warms. Physiological acclimation, community shifts, and evolutionary adaptation could all contribute to this hypothesized pattern. The Allison lab is testing how these mechanisms affect extracellular enzyme production and kinetic properties because fungi use enzymes to degrade soil carbon. Our results are being combined with a litter decomposition experiment and transcription profiling to assess the potential for fungal adaptation. We are incorporating the experimental results into a trait-based model of soil carbon decomposition.

Funded by NSF Ecosystem Studies

© Steven Allison 2012