Research Fellows Directory
Dr Flavia Pinzari
Natural History Museum
Fungi are able to dissolve minerals and extract nutrients like P, K, Ca, Mg and Fe. These compounds are fundamental in plant nutrition and their release can determine the fertility of a soil.
In a recent study we showed that it is possible to recognize the alteration footprint of individual fungal species on individual minerals. This indicates the potential of relating chemical weathering features to types of fungi in nature. However, the fungal footprint may well change in natural environments due to the diversity of microbial community, mineral sources available, mineral particle size and water regime, just to cite some of the most evident variables. It will be interesting to test the possibility of discerning specific weathering footprints in experiments of increasing complexity.
This line of research would give the possibility of identifying the presence, now or in the past, of specific fungal groups by their weathering footprint, and of learning how this footprint may vary with changing variables and thus indicate the changes in fungal strategies to obtain mineral nutrients.
Despite the importance of these processes, the extent to which fungi can modulate their activity to efficiently obtain nutrients from rocks remains unclear. A question to answer is whether a fungus can "sense" the presence of minerals with different composition and resistance to dissolution, and regulate consequently its activity.
The project will provide new knowledge on the role of fungi in shaping soils and vice versa on the role of soils in regulating fungal activity. The results will help to unravel the role of genetic mechanisms in the fungal mobilisation of metal nutrients and possibly provide a deeper understanding on the role of fungal selectivity in bio-geochemical cycles.