The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) recently funded a new 3-yr project in the lab dealing with saprobic fungi and soil aggregation.
We are using a set of 30 soil fungi (containing mostly Ascomycota, but also Basidiomycota and Mucoromycotina), which we all isolated from our favorite local grassland site in Mallnow, Germany. In the project we are planning to measure a number of characteristics of fungi (a.k.a. traits) that we want to correlate with different aspects of soil aggregation, namely aggregate formation, stabilization and also disintegration. This research is pursuing a trait-based approach in order to achieve a greater degree of generalizability of results than would normally be possible with standard comparative approaches, based on a few strains of fungi. Thus, we hope to be able to come to a better understanding of how soil fungi build and stabilize soil aggregates, that is the ‘crumbs’ that are so important for setting the stage for life in soil.
This project is part of a larger lab strategy to establish trait-based views of fungal ecology.