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Mapping underground fungal networks - Society for the Protection of Underground Networks (SPUN)

Confocal 3D-image of a fungal network with reproductive spores containing nuceli (smaller dots) © Vasilis Kokkoris
Confocal 3D-image of a fungal network with reproductive spores containing nuceli (smaller dots) © Vasilis Kokkoris

Today (Tuesday 30 November), the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks (SPUN) is announcing the largest-ever donation to map, conserve, and protect underground fungal networks, given by the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust. SPUN will use this funding to lead the first global exploration and mapping of underground fungal networks that play a critical role below the surface, sequestering carbon and moving nutrients across ecosystems.

Jeremy Grantham, a climate advocate who has pledged 98 percent of his net worth to fighting climate change, says: “Just below our feet lies an invaluable ally in mitigating climate change – vast hidden fungal networks. Billions of tons of carbon dioxide flow annually from plants into fungal networks. And yet, these carbon sinks are poorly understood. In working to map and harness this threatened but vital resource for life on earth, the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks is pioneering a new chapter in global conservation.”

Co-founded by Toby Kiers and Colin Averill, SPUN’s mission as a science-based initiative is to save trillions of kilometers of underground networks threatened by human activity and climate extremes, and utilize fungal networks to help sequester carbon, move nutrients, and protect ecosystem biodiversity.

Currently fungal networks face an uncertain future. Their loss – driven by agricultural expansion, pollution, urbanization and deforestation – is largely undocumented and invisible.

Network exploration is being guided by a team of prominent advisors including conservationist Jane Goodall, authors Michael Pollan, and Merlin Sheldrake, and founder of the Fungi Foundation, Giuliana Furci. Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace, said: “This is an extremely important conservation project. An understanding of underground fungal networks is essential to our efforts to protect the soil, on which life depends, before it is too late.”

Posted on: 30 November 2021

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