Warmer temperatures stimulate diversity of soil fungi

Antarctic warming stimulates diversity of soil fungi
Antarctic Peninsula. Credit: Dr. Paul Dennis

New research on Antarctic soil fungi shows they are stimulated by warmer temperatures and could increase if the region continues to warm.

Remote and covered by ice for much of the year the Antarctic Peninsula is home to hidden and dynamic communities of microbes that have an important role to play in the fragile ecosystems in which they are found. Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change this week, a team of scientists report how they have found a direct relationship between temperature and the diversity of Antarctic soil fungi.

Surface air temperatures along the Antarctic Peninsula rose by up to 2.8°C during the second half of the twentieth century. Among the physical manifestations of this warming have been glacier retreat and ice-shelf collapse. But other biological responses have also been observed such as an increase in plant growth. This new study investigates potential changes in a less apparent group of organisms, . It suggests that there could be a rise of up to 27% in the diversity of fungi in Antarctic soils by 2100 if temperatures increase by a similar amount to what they did between the 1940s and beginning of this century. This will, in turn, have an effect on the turnover of nutrients in soils making them more productive.

Dr Kevin Newsham of British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the University Centre in Svalbard, the lead author of the study, says: "Although the majority of fungi are microscopic they have important roles to play as decomposers and as symbionts (mutually dependent organisms that aid each other's survival). We've observed that warmer Antarctic soils have more species of fungi in them than colder ones. If air temperatures along the Peninsula rise, it's likely the number of species of fungi in the soils of the region will increase, partly due to the increased availability of water. This will influence important ecological processes such as the decay of plant remains effectively kick-starting plant communities by releasing more nutrients into the soil."

Antarctic warming stimulates diversity of soil fungi
Returning from sample collection -- A Royal Navy Lynx helicopter is about to land on HMS Endurance. Credit: Dr. Paul Dennis

The project, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the University of Queensland, used sequencing of DNA to measure the number of species of fungi present in 29 soil samples gathered from a 1,650 km-long transect along the Antarctic Peninsula during the austral summer of 2007/08. The sampling sites, some of which were previously uncharted, were visited by helicopter or small boats from HMS Endurance.

Professor David Hopkins, who led the overall project, and who is now based at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, says: "We have embarked on the largest survey of ever undertaken on the Antarctic Peninsula using a "space for time substitution" to predict how these ecosystems will change. This approach allowed us to compare different places on a long latitudinal/climatic gradient to predict the future effects of warmer and wetter conditions. Our work demonstrates the importance of large scale studies even when considering small scale organisms."

Part of the reason for more fungal species being present in warmer soils is probably due to improved access to water, which, in combination with higher temperatures will enhance fungal metabolism, lengthening the period for which are active each year and enabling them to disperse more easily.

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More information: "Relationship between soil fungal diversity and temperature in the maritime Antarctic", DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2806
Journal information: Nature Climate Change

Citation: Warmer temperatures stimulate diversity of soil fungi (2015, September 28) retrieved 16 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-09-warmer-temperatures-diversity-soil-fungi.html
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Sep 28, 2015
Garbage Journalism Alert!

The climate change "tipping point" is when climate scientists finally say their own 34 year old CO2 Armageddon is; 'PROVEN". No matter how much you hate conservatives.
Exaggerating vague science and 'could be' the end of days to our children just to blame evil republicans wasn't "progressive" or civilized.
This Reefer Madness of climate blame is liberalism's Iraq War.

*Is this how you want your kids remembering you?*

Sep 28, 2015
Lots of questions about the accuracy, localization, assumptions and agendas in this article indeed:

1. The basic assumptions start off - questionable. First the mean annual temp. anomaly since 1880 has been about 0.6-0.8 degrees C. (https://en.wikipe...arming). Not 2.8 degrees - likely localized volcanic origin.
2. Fractional increases in frozen climates are not likely to have much of increase in fungal activity - unless they're increasing the production of their own anti-freeze as well. Additionally, its the extremes of cold that limit (not means) activity and increases in speciation - which is very limited to start with in Antarctica. (https://en.wikipe...ganism).
3. If significant - which is improbable - there would be a slightly larger carbon sink in Antarctica in the future than today - especially including increased activity bacteria and algae. So, Antarctica increase its share in carbon sequestration - not a bad thing.

Sep 28, 2015
There's a lot of questions about the accuracy and agendas in your comment:
1. The temperature anomaly mentioned in the article is only for the Antarctic Peninsula, not globally as your 0.6-0.8 C range is for. And, while it would be nice that the heat increase was from volcanoes, measurements say that the volcanoes are not sufficient to explain the warming, by a few orders of magnitude (https://news.vice...ice-caps ).
2. This article is about the Antarctic Peninsula, where temperatures are above freezing for 3-4 months during the summer. An increase of 2.8C is pretty large for this area.
3. Yes, Antarctica might have a very slight increase in carbon sequestration - if it weren't for the melting permafrost (http://news.utexa...expected ). ;)

Sep 29, 2015

Not sure where your Antarctica temp. data came from, but there sure aren't above freezing temps 3-4 mos. according to this data. (http://www.coolan...rdo.php)

Cherry picking warmer spot measurements are already described as flaws in global temperature metrology. While I understand the necessity of looking at warning signs, we also have to be careful that we don't extrapolate beyond their significance.

Note the lack of actual data in the article:

"Surface air temperatures along the Antarctic Peninsula rose by up to 2.8°C during the second half of the twentieth century." - The "up to" here isn't a quantifiable measurement.

"could be a rise of up to 27% in the diversity of fungi in Antarctic soils" - This is an estimate or opinion - not data. Diversity does not necessarily increase productivity. At best this work is gross extrapolation and worst - wild ass guesses.

Sep 29, 2015
Not sure where your Antarctica temp. data came from, but there sure aren't above freezing temps 3-4 mos. according to this data. (http://www.coolan...rdo.php)

Umm, this article is about the Antarctic Peninsula. Why are none of the points you linked to anywhere near that area? From your link: http://www.coolan...ming.php :
The mean annual air temperature of the Antarctic Peninsula has increased by nearly 3°C in the region in the last 50 years

As for the region being above freezing, yes, some parts of the peninsula have above freezing temperature for 3-4 months a year: https://en.wikipe...#Climate .

Sep 29, 2015
Your other complaints seem to be because you don't like how scientists talk. "Up to" is certainly a quantifiable statement, so I'm not sure what your problem is with the first occurrence.

For the second occurrence, predictions for the future will always contain some error that must be accounted for. So saying something like "up to" is a requirement. In the paper, that error should be defined. In fact, it's given in the abstract (linked in the article above) as being 20% - 27%. Why you claim this isn't data I don't know - do you expect data to be without error? There is no such thing, so get used to it.

Your claim of "Diversity does not necessarily increase productivity" seems to be without data. Did you, as the paper seems to have (from the abstract), look at how diversity affected soils at lower latitudes and compare to what's happening in the Antarctic Peninsula? If not, why make your claim of "wild ass guesses"?

Sep 29, 2015

WWF Report shows Italy's Alpine Glaciers retreated by 40% over Last Three Decades

Authors of the report said that drastic measures should be considered by world leaders at the summit, so that glaciers across the globe could be saved from melting rapidly. The report stated that in 1980s, Alpine glaciers had covered an area of about 609 sq kms, but today, the glaciers are covering just 368 sq kms of area. The New Italian Glacier Inventory has provided the figures on Friday. These figures were previously presented at the 19th Alpine Glaciology meeting in May in Milan.


Sep 29, 2015
Cherry picking warmer spot measurements are already described as flaws in global temperature metrology.

By the way, you might want to consider what cherry picking is. When looking at the effects of global warming on the Antarctic Peninsula, not including temperatures from the middle or other side of the continent of Antarctica is not cherry picking. When examining the effect of sea level rise on Florida, would you say that sea level rise has no effect on New Mexico so Florida is safe?

The effects of global warming on the rest of Antarctica are likely to be different than the effects on the Peninsula, just as the effects of global warming are likely to be different on Florida than on New Mexico. If you want to study the effects on the rest of Antarctica, find a paper that discusses those.

Oct 03, 2015
Are you suggesting that writing an article about the soil of the Antarctic peninsula is cherry picking? That would be a highly inadequate statement, in line with your earlier less than accurate comment.

Oct 03, 2015
"Not sure where your Antarctica temp. data came from,"
He got them from the article above. The one you are commenting on.

Oct 04, 2015
It has long been proven that coastlines with moderate levels of 'disturbance' have the highest level of diversity. That is because chaotic conditions often create niches in which only specialist organisms can thrive. Perhaps the larger temperature swings could also be considered a disturbance.

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