Mycorrhizal Wealth of Carpathians / SPUN EXPEDITION

The interdisciplinary team of RHIZOSPHERE has joined the mission of SPUN SOCIETY FOR THE PROTECTION OF UNDERGROUND NETWORKS – an ambitious international program to initiate global action to protect underground ecosystems that are largely unaccounted for in biodiversity and climate change agendas. We are one of the groups that are involved in the collection and analysis of fungal DNA samples from places not yet explored. These are the places indicated on the prediction map, created with the help of AI by SPUN, which may play the role of hot spots of underground mycorrhizal networks. The core of our project is the scientific research on the role of monumental trees and their mycobiomes in sustaining natural ecosystems, in the East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, especially in the buffer zone of the Bieszczady National Park. It is an area not only of exceptional biological but also cultural and historical importance, on the border of Poland, Ukraine and Slovakia.

AREA: Around 10 000 ha of the southeast buffer zone of Bieszczady National Park (BdPN). We got from FDP Natural Heritage Foundation (Polish expert NGO) GPS coordinates of 3675 ‘monumental trees’, each exceeding the legislative dimensions for natural monuments (18 species, dominated by common beeches and silver firs).

SIGNIFICANCE: The scientific intention is to provide evidence of root mycobiome biodiversity around monumental trees forming the backbone of the East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve. Database references to the fungal biodiversity of this region are slim (and contain few sequences). The groups of monumental trees to be surveyed can be considered the ‘hot spots’ of the region, according to the nomenclature of SPUN prediction map. The area of the planned research is the State Forest Stuposiany district, a buffer zone of the Bieszczady National Park, where monumental trees are still being logged there at an alarming rate (documented by another NGO -IDK). We intend to analyze mycobiomes also around tree trunks logged a few years ago, so we will also reach the local ‘cold spots’, i.e. the mountain habitats affected by anthropogenic degradation. We hope that our scientific and social activities contribute to expanding the area of the Bieszczady National Park.

INTERDISCIPLINARY CHALLENGE: to visualize extremely complex and rich fungal networks and popularize knowledge about their fundamental role in local and global ecosystems, with an emphasis on the inherent relationship between biological and societal processes.

Learn more about the East Carpathian Region / Buffer Zone of Bieszczady National Park and FUNGI (in Polish)

Rhizosphere / Myconauts TEAM:

Science: UAM Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan: Prof UAM dr hab Władysław Polcyn, Prof. dr hab Marlena Lembicz, junior bioinformaticians of AMU : Chmielewski Maksymilian., Charchuta Mikołaj

Art & Science Node with the University of Arts in Poznań: Prof. dr hab Joanna Hoffmann, Piotr Slomczewski, Maria Subczyńska, Jadwiga Subczyńska

Foundation for Natural Heritage: Piotr Klub

Learn more about our 1st EXPEDITION in May 2023:

The transnational eastern Carpathian mountains hold a special place in the collective imagination of the nations that share them. Our interdisciplinary Team arrived in the Bieszczady region of the eastern Carpathian mountains to study the fungal networks associated with the monumental trees. To do this, we collected soil samples with the precision of molecular biology.

We had the opportunity to prove that old trees are connected to an underground network making up the forest. We made a cross-section of woundwood formed in silver fir stump to expose 15-20 annual rings. It means that the trunk was alive long after being cut which is not possible without the nutritional help of neighbours – other trees and mycorrhizal fungi.

Preserving monumental trees means preserving the value of this region both as a natural ecosystem needed ecologically, but also as a place to retreat when you need some rest and quiet. As mentioned above, we hope that our work will contribute to efforts aiming at the extension of the Bieszczady National Park. And on the spot, we were welcomed by its furry inhabitants – brown bears roaming these mountains.