Fungi In A Warmer World An Overview Of Fungi During The Middle Miocene Climate Optimum
Fungal activity is a key driver of terrestrial carbon cycling, and the distribution and diversity of fungi are closely related to local ecosystem structure. This makes fungi a powerful tool for understanding how ecosystems react to climate change, however the long-term, large-scale datasets needed to do this do not exist, and cannot be built on the timescale of single human lifetimes. They can, however, be built from the fossil record, although, to date, we do not have enough information about the composition of fossil fungal communities to generate accurate models to use to predict fungal responses to today’s climate crisis. The “Fungi in a Warmer World” (FiaWW) project is tasked with building the first dataset of this kind. Students affiliated with FiaWW are studying the fungal assemblage composition and diversity preserved in rocks deposited during the Middle Miocene Climate Optimum, the warmest interval of the last 16 million years, and considered the best analogue for the modern-future climate scenarios. By analyzing samples from different places around the world, we can determine how 1) fungal biodiversity, 2) the frequency of phytopathogens, and 3) the distribution of agriculturally important fungi changed in relation to climate change. In collaboration with scientists at Northumbria University, we will use this information to model fungal community response to future climate change. Here we present the framework for our overall study.