Can Mushrooms Help Regulate Climate Change?


| LAST UPDATE 06/07/2023

By Stanley Wickens
mushroom climate change research
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Are mushrooms capable of regulating their own temperature? According to new research, it seems like they can. Scientists have accidentally discovered that mushrooms and other fungi are capable of keeping themselves cooler than their surroundings, and this discovery could help us learn more about how these organisms might respond to global warming and how they've evolved.

The temperature regulation of fungi is relatively unknown when compared to plants and animals, but this new study shows that not only mushrooms, but also yeast and mold communities can maintain colder temperatures than their surroundings. The researchers analyzed mushrooms in the wild and other fungal species in the lab to check on temperature differences and found that mushrooms were on average 2.9 °C (5.2 °F) colder than the surrounding air. With some mushroom species, the temperature of the mushroom was as much as 5.9 °C (10.6 °F) cooler. So, how do mushrooms keep themselves cool? Through lab experiments where water content and temperature could be manipulated, the researchers confirmed that mushrooms regulate their temperature through evapotranspiration, which involves releasing water into the air. Other fungus types can perform this trick as well, with colonies tending to be colder nearer the center regardless of the external temperature.

mushroom temperature climate research
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"As fungi compose around 2 percent of Earth's biomass, their cooling properties may help regulate local environments," says the team. They even fashioned a basic mushroom-powered cooler as part of their study to test this theory and found that Agaricus bisporus effectively reduced the temperature inside a sealed enclosure. Understanding the cooling properties of fungi is not only important for gaining insight into these organisms but also for modeling climate change. As fungi play a vital role in the ecological cycles on Earth, knowing how they will adapt in the future and how they might help other plants and animals adapt too is crucial.

The research was published in PNAS and the team believes that further study is needed to uncover why fungi like to keep cool, as it could be a species-specific characteristic. But for now, one thing is certain: mushrooms are really cool.

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