Sunday, March 28, 2010

How Fungi Can Save The World

A must for anyone who wants to understand the natural world is the TED lecture by Paul Stamets  entitled “Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World."   It is 18 minutes that will change your view of the world beneath your feet.
Fungi don't get much attention unless your bread gets moldy or you get out and hike around in nature.  It is easy to forget that they occur all around us, and that the mushrooms we see are just the fruiting bodies of an extensive hidden network of hyphae making a quiet living while decomposing dead plant material.  The broad range of fungi's ability to decompose waste is under-appreciated by most of us.

After watching Stamets' lecture, you will want to check out his 6-minute video on this Youtube site.  He further expounds on the appetite of fungi for pollutants.  They are able to feed on oil, PCB's, dioxin and nasty toxins, reducing them to natural elements which are recycled into nature.  His short video lecture can be found at this .  It it, he demonstrates the conversion of toxic petroleum-soaked dirt into healthy soil, with the production of giant mushrooms as an intermediary step.
This should not be news to us.  Fungi are part of the reason that our forests are not littered with the trunks of the trees that have died over the last hundreds of years.  They are important for the health of many trees which could barely survive.   The association of fungi with plant roots, called Mycorrhizae, occurs in 90 % of plant species.  This symbiotic relationship means the trees can supply carbohydrates to the fungus.  In trade, the fungus makes otherwise unavailable demineralized phosphate ions available to the plants through their roots.
With encouragement, fungi may become more symbiotic with humans, cleaning up some of our man-made messes.   Take the time to watch Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World.  It will lift your spirits.

No comments:

Post a Comment