London: Experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Imperial College London and the University of Sydney have learnt how ancient plants and soil fungi turned the Earth green over 470 million years ago.
The study showed that an ancient plant group worked together with soil-dwelling fungi to ``green`` the Earth in the early Palaeozoic era, nearly half a billion years ago.
The team studied a thalloid liverwort plant for the study. They used controlled-environment growth rooms to simulate a CO2-rich atmosphere, similar to that of the Palaeozoic era when these plants originated.
The team found that when the thalloid liverwort was colonised by the fungi, it significantly enhanced photosynthetic carbon uptake, growth and asexual reproduction, factors that had a beneficial impact on plant fitness.
The fungi provide essential soil nutrients and the fungi also benefit by receiving carbon from the plants.
“Our results support the idea that the ``greening`` of the Earth was promoted by a symbiosis between plants and fungi. It shows that plants didn``t get a toe-hold on land without teaming up with fungi,” said Professor David Beerling, from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield.
Martin Bidartondo from the Jodrell Laboratory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said, "Fungi are present in every type of habitat throughout the world and are essential for many plants to grow. It is exciting that we are now beginning to discover the fungi associated with ``lower`` plants, and that many more still remain to be investigated."
The research was published in Nature Communications.