Observing Fungi in a Mountain Cloud Forest
On a cool, fog-shrouded mountain in Costa Rica, Caitlin Looby is finding that warming temperatures are an increasing problem for one of the most ecologically diverse places on Earth.
A graduate student in ecology & evolutionary biology, Looby has determined that if the higher-elevation soil becomes similar to lower-elevation soil, which is warmer and drier, it will spur the growth of the type of fungi flourishing at lower elevations that breaks down plant material. And if this degradation of plant material escalates, it will release significantly increased amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
“Any changes in climate could have important ecological consequences,” Looby says, noting that this research could allow for better predictions of how tropical ecosystems will respond to global warming.