Forest floor with mushrooms

Nature Provides a Fungal Fix to Soil Contamination

Fungal Networks Provide New Avenue for Bioremediation

The cleanliness of soil and water is vital to any ecosystem’s survival. So providing the essential sources of nutrients and chemical compounds plants and animals need to live. Unfortunately, the thousands of miles of mycelial (fungal) networks that act as traffic directors for vital nutrients, supporting diverse plant growth, are less apparent as you traverse any forest floor. 

Fungal mesh networks operate as a nearly invisible nutrient delivery system. So the fungus can reap the chemical compounds they need from the plants they support. And although fungi typically consume biological matter, their enzymes can break down a wide variety of potentially toxic artificial compounds.

Contemporary studies have demonstrated the natural ability of fungi to expunge environmental pollutants, providing a theoretical framework for mycoremediation. For example, the remarkable power of fungi to break down toxic substances has recently been used. Thus, restoring damaged soils in the aftermath of California wildfires.

Mycelial Networks Represent the Adaptiveness and Mystery of Natural Systems

There is much yet to be learned about how fungal networks impact the overall health of the earth’s ecosystems. The use of fungus as a natural decontaminate is still in its infancy, with new techniques still being developed and studied. 

Fungi can break down large, toxic chemical compounds into smaller molecules, naturally reducing toxicity. The compounds are then transported through the fungal network to mushrooms which can be removed, slowly cleansing the environment. However, this process takes time and does not typically result in the complete decontamination of a polluted site, depending on the severity of contamination.

Like other natural forms of bioremediation, such as microbial (bacterial) bioremediation. Using fungi in this way can have a lasting positive effect on the soil and water of a given ecosystem. The more we learn about these techniques, the more we can do to support the natural systems we need to survive and live life to the fullest.

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