A diversity of fungal pathways contribute to improved soil carbon stability and storage

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Emiko Stuart , Laura Castañeda-Gómez, Wolfram Buss, Jeff R Powell, Yolima Carrillo


While various fungi could facilitate soil C storage and climate change mitigation via carbon (C) cycling, standard soil C tests that measure only bulk soil C cannot disentangle mechanisms underpinning fungal influences and so far research has largely focused on mycorrhizal fungi. Here, we assessed the soil C storage potential of 12 non-mycorrhizal fungi, selected from a wide pool based on traits potentially linked to soil C accrual. We grew wheat plants inoculated with individual isolates in chambers designed to differentiate plant- and soil-derived C using stable isotope analysis. After harvest, we conducted long-term soil incubations and high throughput fractionation to determine fungal impacts on soil C pools. While only some isolates resulted in significant total soil C increases, most significantly improved soil C stability by increasing the stable pools of soil C, providing the first direct experimental evidence that inoculation with specific fungi can improve soil C storage by stabilising existing C. These increases were positively associated with fungal and plant growth characteristics, indicating direct and indirect mechanisms for fungal impacts on soil C storage. Our study highlights the need for more research on the roles of non-mycorrhizal fungi in C cycling and for higher resolution methods to understand fungal impacts on soil C storage, as these fungi hold promise for soil C sequestration strategies.




Agricultural Science, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Microbiology and Microbial Ecology Life Sciences, Life Sciences, Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


Soil carbon sequestration, soil carbon pools, microbial ecology, plant-microbial interactions, fungal inoculants, wheat


Published: 2023-03-03 14:39

Last Updated: 2023-03-03 19:39


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Conflict of interest statement:
The research was partially funded by SoilCQuest2031 who provided the fungal cultures and soil. This funding was provided independently of research findings. SoilCQuest2031 did not attempt to influence the interpretations or conclusions of the work. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Data and Code Availability Statement:
The data that support the findings of this study are available from Loam Bio Pty Ltd but restrictions apply to the availability of these data, which were used under license for the current study, and so are not publicly available. Data are however available from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission of Loam Bio Pty Ltd.

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