BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Vast Underground Network of Fungi Detected from Space
Published: April 20, 2016
Posted: July 29, 2016

Tree-mycorrhizal associations detected remotely from canopy spectral properties.

 The Science  
Researchers used satellite measurements of forest canopies to detect belowground fungal associations with trees across landscapes, testing the findings with 130,000 trees throughout the United States.

The Impact
Nearly all tree species associate with only one of two types of mycorrhizal fungi—arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi or ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi. AM- and ECM-dominated forests have distinct nutrient economies, so detection and mapping of these fungi can provide key insights into fundamental ecosystem properties.

Summary
Hidden belowground is a vast network of fungi that operates in a complex economy within forests, scavenging for nutrients and trading them to trees for carbon sugars. Researchers in a Department of Energy-supported study figured out how to detect this underground network from space. Understanding how different forests get their nutrients is critical to predicting how forests may grow—or be growth-stunted due to lack of nutrients—into the future. The type of mycorrhizal fungi is a key piece of that puzzle in determining how forests will respond to future changes in climate, carbon dioxide, water, and temperature. Scientists have known for many years which tree species associate with which fungi, but mapping every single tree species across large scales such as landscapes or continents has not been possible. The researchers used Landsat satellite measurements of forest canopies to detect mycorrhizal associations. They gathered data from 130,000 trees throughout the United States to test their approach, finding that they could predict 77% of the differences in mycorrhizal associations known on the ground from satellite observations alone.

Contacts (BER PM)
Daniel Stover and Jared DeForest
SC-23.1
Daniel.Stover@science.doe.gov, 301-903-0289; and Jared.DeForest@science.doe.gov, 301-903-1678

(PI Contact)
Joshua B. Fisher
University of California, Los Angeles; Jet Propulsion Laboratory
joshbfisher@gmail.com, 323-540-4569

Funding
Funding for the remote sensing analysis was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Terrestrial Ecosystem Science program; National Science Foundation Ecosystem Science Program; and Indiana University.

Publications
Fisher, J. B., S. Sweeney, E. R. Brzostek, T. P. Evans, D. J. Johnson, J. A. Myers, N. A. Bourg, A. T. Wolf, R. W. Howe, and R. P. Phillips. 2016. “Tree-Mycorrhizal Associations Detected Remotely from Canopy Spectral Properties,” Global Change Biology 22(7), 2596-2607. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13264. (Reference link)

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science
  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities

Division: SC-33.1 Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Mar 23, 2021
Molecular Connections from Plants to Fungi to Ants
Lipids transfer energy and serve as an inter-kingdom communication tool in leaf-cutter ants&rsqu [more...]

Mar 19, 2021
Microbes Use Ancient Metabolism to Cycle Phosphorus
Microbial cycling of phosphorus through reduction-oxidation reactions is older and more widespre [more...]

Feb 22, 2021
Warming Soil Means Stronger Microbe Networks
Soil warming leads to more complex, larger, and more connected networks of microbes in those soi [more...]

Jan 27, 2021
Labeling the Thale Cress Metabolites
New data pipeline identifies metabolites following heavy isotope labeling.

Analysis [more...]

Aug 31, 2020
Novel Bacterial Clade Reveals Origin of Form I Rubisco
Objectives

  • All plant biomass is sourced from the carbon-fixing enzyme Rub [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)