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What does soil fungi have to do with the carbon cycle?

Funga Tech Explained

Plants, soil, oceans, algae, almost everything alive on Earth is engaged in a cycles of storing some amount of carbon. But among them, trees are especially efficient carbon sequesters. For every 10 tons of carbon that is emitted by burning fossil fuels, only 7 of those tons actually end up in the atmosphere, because trees are already absorbing 30% of the excess carbon we emit.

We need to remove as much carbon as possible, as quickly as possible, and one of the most direct paths towards that goal is optimizing and expanding the carbon sequestering capacity of our forests.

There's many ways we can support trees in their carbon-capturing efforts. First and foremost is be simply planting more, ideally in the context of restoring entire forests that would repopulate themselves. But we can also take steps to maximize carbon storage in existing forests. We believe we've found a potent tool for doing just that, in the forest's soil microbiome. And we are partnering with commercial forestry because we see commercial forestry as a promising (and yet under-utilized) source of large-scale carbon sequestration. Optimizing commercial forestry does not require a change of land ownership, it utilizes trees that are already being managed and monitored, and by increasing growth rates, it provides a parallel benefit to foresters by significantly increasing their yield.

In natural ecosystems, trees form a symbiosis with soil microbes, among them are fungi that attach to tree roots and extend that tree's ability to access underground nutrients. Unsurprisingly, with more robust access to tree-growing-resources, those trees grow more. And since trees store carbon in their wood, increased growth is intrinsically tied to an increase in carbon storage. But trees that are planted in the context of commercial forestry are usually planted WITHOUT their native fungal helpers. Which means that forestry production as we know it now is only reaching a fraction of its full potential.

By inoculating young trees with the root fungi that they are known pair with in the wild, we are finally enabling these trees to flourish in a soil environment that more closely emulates the ecosystem that they evolved to thrive in. Not every soil fungi species is right for every tree, which is why we are building a sophisticated data system that will draw on global data sets, and Dr. Averill's decade of research on root fungi, to create biodiverse inoculant prescriptions for the spectrum of species within commercial forestry. We will partner with landowners to implement these soil inoculations, track the resulting growth, and turn that demonstrable carbon additionality into verified carbon credits.

In summary, here's what we do in three simple steps:

STEP 1: Our data analysis pipeline will use the historical weather, soil, and forest data to identify a fungal inoculant cocktail that meets the needs of the specific forest being assessed.

STEP 2: We will work with landowners to plant new trees alongwith a soil transplant containing the appropriate fungal inoculation.

STEP 3: We will track the growth of inoculated trees compared to controls, and use that additional growth to calculate carbon additionality, which will then become verified carbon credits.


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