The desiccation of upper soil horizons is a common phenomenon, leading to a decrease in soil microbial activity and mineralization. Recent studies have shown that fungal communities and fungal-based food webs are less sensitive and better adapted to soil desiccation than bacterial-based food webs. One reason for a better fungal adaptation to soil desiccation may be hydraulic redistribution of water by mycelia networks. Here we show that a saprotrophic fungus (Agaricus bisporus) redistributes water from moist (–0.03 MPa) into dry (–9.5 MPa) soil at about 0.3 cm⋅min−1 in single hyphae, resulting in an increase in soil water potential after 72 h. The increase in soil moisture by hydraulic redistribution significantly enhanced carbon mineralization by 2,800% and enzymatic activity by 250–350% in the previously dry soil compartment within 168 h. Our results demonstrate that hydraulic redistribution can partly compensate water deficiency if water is available in other zones of the mycelia network. Hydraulic redistribution is likely one of the mechanisms behind higher drought resistance of soil fungi compared with bacteria. Moreover, hydraulic redistribution by saprotrophic fungi is an underrated pathway of water transport in soils and may lead to a transfer of water to zones of high fungal activity.
Natural Sciences in General