As the world aims to cut carbon emissions, a major solution rests beneath our feet.
"The discovery that fungi is storing over a third of the carbon created from fossil fuel emissions each year indicates that it could be crucial as nations seek to tackle climate change and reach net zero."
Fungi hold up to 36 percent of annual global fossil fuel emissions below ground — enough to cancel out the emissions of China, the world's largest carbon polluter, which emits twice as much as the second largest emitter, the United States.
The United Nations previously warned that 90 percent of soils could be degraded by 2050, which the report notes "could be catastrophic for not only curbing climate change and rising temperatures, but for the productivity of crops and plants too."
Kate Field, professor of biology at the University of Sheffield and coauthor of the report, said that fungi “represent a blind spot in carbon modeling, conservation, and restoration."
"The numbers we’ve uncovered are jaw-dropping, and when we’re thinking about solutions for climate we should also be thinking about what we can harness that exists already," she said in a statement.
Field also noted that " through agriculture, development, and other industry," the underground ecosystems of fungi species "are being destroyed at an alarming rate."
"When we disrupt the ancient life support systems in the soil, we sabotage our efforts to limit global heating and undermine the ecosystems on which we depend," she continued. “More needs to be done to protect these underground networks - we already knew that they were essential for biodiversity, and now we have even more evidence that they are crucial to the health of our planet.”