Fungi and Ecosystem Functioning

Unlike green plants fungi lack chlorophyll and therefore must obtain their nutrition from other sources. Fungi have an important role in the ecosystem where they break down and decompose dead plants and animals(SAPROPHYTES). Some types of fungi attack living organisms  and can be very destructive causing millions of dollars in losses to the forestry industry. Other fungi attack living trees and even other fungi (PARASITIC). Still others form a mutually beneficial association with trees and shrubs(MYCORRHIZA).

Fungi play vital roles in the biosphere. They are essential to the recycling of nutrients in all terrestrial habitats because they are the dominant decomposers of the complex components of plant debris, such as cellulose and lignin. As opportunistic heterotrophs, they have evolved hyphae to penetrate solid substrates, and spores for long‐range dispersal. They cause many diseases of plants and animals, but they also have established mutualistic symbioses with a wide range of organisms: cyanobacteria and green algae (in lichens), bryophytes, pteridophytes, gymnosperms and angiosperms (in mycorrhizae), and coleopteran, dipteran, homopteran, hymenopteran and isopteran insects. As parasites or pathogens they are well equipped to penetrate host organisms and to liberate spores that will effectively transmit them from one host to the next, and many species produce toxic compounds (mycotoxins). 

  • Degradation of organic compounds
  • Fungi and Permaculture
  • Mycelium
  • Non-pathogenic association of fungi with plants
  • Pathogenic association of fungi with plants
  • Bioremediation of soils
  • Biological control agents
  • Coal solubilisation

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Fungi and Ecosystem Functioning Conference Speakers