Soil is one of the most diverse habitats on Earth and one of the least characterized in terms of the identification and ecological roles of soil organisms. Soils also contain the largest repository of organic carbon in the terrestrial biosphere and the activities of soil organisms are responsible for one of the largest annual fluxes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
Soil fungi are the primary drivers of decomposition in temperate forests, and environmental disturbances that selectively impact different species of fungi may influence soil carbon cycling. The diversity and community composition of soil fungi are altered by soil warming, simulated nitrogen deposition, and biotic invasion. Fungal taxa exposed long term to these environmental stressors also exhibit an altered physiological capacity to degrade plant material, a trait that is not readily reversed. Changes in fungal physiology and community dynamics likely explain, at least in part, previously observed changes in soil carbon storage in response to increased soil temperatures, enhanced soil nitrogen availability, and the invasion of non-native plant species.
Dr. Serita Frey is a Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of New Hampshire where she chairs the Natural Resources and Earth System Science Ph.D. Program. Her research focuses on soil microbial responses to global change, with an emphasis on how long-term soil warming, simulated nitrogen deposition, and biotic invasion are altering soil fungal ecology and evolution. Her research team maintains three long-term global change experiments at the Harvard Forest Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) site and a state-wide, distributed soil sensor network in New Hampshire.