Fungi mushroom biology can help us respond to some of the many problems that arise from ongoing environmental devastation. Antiviral compounds produced by fungal mycelium reduce colony collapse disorder in honeybees. Voracious fungal appetites can be deployed to break down pollutants, such as crude oil from oil spills, in a process known as mycoremediation. Fungi mushrooms biology in science.

Fungi radical mushrooms biology, biomaterials

In mycofiltration, contaminated water is passed through mats of mycelium, which filter out heavy metals and break down toxins. In mycofabrication, building materials and textiles are grown out of mycelium and replace plastics and leather in many applications. Fungal melanins, the pigments produced by radiotolerant fungi, are a promising new source of radiation resistant biomaterials.

Human societies have always pivoted around prodigious fungal metabolisms. A full litany of the chemical accomplishments of fungi would take months to recite. Yet despite their promise, and central role in many ancient human fascinations, fungi have received a tiny fraction of the attention given to animals and plants. The best estimate suggests that there are between 2.2 and 3.8 million species of fungi in the world six to ten times the estimated number of plant species meaning that a mere six percent of all fungal species have been described. We are only just beginning to understand the intricacies and sophistications of fungal lives.

Fungi mushrooms solutions don’t stop at human health story

A solid log becomes soil, a lump of dough rises into bread, a mushroom erupts overnight but how? As a teenager I dealt with my bafflement by finding ways to involve myself with fungi. I picked mushrooms and grew mushrooms in my bedroom. Later, I brewed alcohol in the hope that I might learn more about yeast and its influence on me. I marveled at the transformation of honey into mead and fruit juice into wine and at how the product of these transformations could transform my own senses and those of my friends.

By the time my formal study of fungi began, when I became an undergraduate at Cambridge in the Department of Plant Sciences there is no Department of Fungal Sciences I had become fascinated by symbiosis the close relationships that form between unrelated organisms. The history of life turned out to be full of intimate collaborations. Mushrooms technology.

Most plants, I learned, depend on fungi to provide them with nutrients from the soil, such as phosphorus or nitrogen, in exchange for energy-giving sugars and lipids produced in photosynthesis the process by which plants eat light and carbon dioxide from the air. The relationship between plants and fungi gave rise to the biosphere as we know it and supports life on land to this day, but we seemed to understand so little.

How did these relationships arise? How do plants and fungi communicate with one another? How could I learn more about the lives of these organisms? I accepted the offer of a PhD to study mycorrhizal relationships in tropical forests in Panama. Soon afterward, I moved to a field station on an island run by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The island and surrounding peninsulas were part of a nature reserve entirely covered by forest, apart from a clearing for dormitories a canteen and lab buildings.

There were greenhouses for growing plants, drying cupboards filled with bags of leaf litter, a room lined with microscopes, and a walk-in freezer packed with samples: bottles of tree sap, dead bats, tubes containing ticks pulled from the backs of spiny rats and boa constrictors. Posters on the notice board offered cash rewards to anyone who could source fresh ocelot droppings from the forest. The jungle bristled with life.

There were sloths, pumas, snakes, crocodiles; there were basilisk lizards that could run across the surface of water without sinking. In just a few hectares there lived as many woody plant species as in the whole of Europe. The diversity of the forest was reflected in the rich variety of field biologists who came there to study it. Some climbed trees and observed ants. Some set out at dawn every day to follow the monkeys. Some tracked the lightning that struck trees during tropical storms.

Some spent their days suspended from a crane measuring ozone concentrations in the forest canopy. Some warmed up the soil using electrical elements to see how bacteria might respond to global heating. Some studied the way beetles navigate using the stars. Bumblebees, orchids, butterflies there seemed to be no aspect of life in the forest that someone wasn’t observing.


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