I have not ever visited the Amazon, but in my imagination, it is populated by some serious, colorful, amazing fungi, all of which will either kill you or get you extremely high. But a new paper in Science found that the rainforest’s mushroom could have another vital purpose: producing a motherlode of potassium that helps clouds form. And clouds, of course, produce the defining characteristic of the rainforest: rain.
Discover magazine explains:
Potassium salts appear to be good at getting carbon compounds to stick together. The larger a carbon cluster was, the larger the ratio of carbon compounds to potassium within it, suggesting that just a certain amount of potassium was needed to get the accretion process started, and after that the carbon compounds kept piling on of their own accord. That, in turn, would get water droplets forming.
The scientists who did this research aren’t totally sure that the Amazon’s fungi are producing the potassium they observed in their samples of rainforest air. It’s plausible, though — fungi spray out potassium when they release their spores, and there’s no other obvious source for the cloud-congealing potassium in the air. If it’s true, it’s evidence that nature is beautifully interconnected, as well as potentially inspiration for the next Super Mario game.
- How Fungi May Create the Amazon's Clouds, Discover Magazine
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