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Posts Tagged ‘waste

07
Feb
12

Terrifically Useful Tuesday: Fungi will save the world, one hypha at a time

This post is part of Terrifically Useful Tuesday looking at the immense benefits plants have for people. See more in this series here.

Paul Stamets: Mycelium Running

For a truly mind-blowing experience you need to see this video. Hell, everyone needs to see it–you won’t look at the earth the same way again. Microscopic cells called mycelium—the fruit of which are mushrooms—recycle carbon, nitrogen, and other essential elements as they break down plant and animal debris in the creation of rich new soil. These mycelium can help save the universe in six specific ways:

  • Mycoremediation – decompose toxic wastes and pollutants,

  • Mycofiltration – catch and reduce silt from streambeds and pathogens from agricultural watersheds),

  • Mycopesticides – control insect populations,

  • Mycoforestry and Myco-gardening – generally enhance the health of our forests and gardens,

  • Myco-pharmaceuticals – treating smallpox, tuberculosis and flu

  • Mycocolonisation – terraform other worlds in our galaxy by sowing a mix of fungal spores and other seeds to create an ecological footprint on a new planet.

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

Love the video? Buy the book: Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets at The Book Depository.

Want proof? Pestalotiopsis microspora eats plastic!

Quick, cheap and easy to produce but taking an extremely long time to breakdown, polyurethane is everywhere. But an Amazonian fungi can eat it for breakfast (and lunch, and dinner).

Polyurethane is one of the most commonly used plastics.  Trouble with all plastics-how do you get rid of it? When burned polyurethane releases hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide, so of course it ends up in landfills.

Future landfills could be seeded with the hungry fungi Pestalotiopsis microspora to chomp through all those discarded garden hoses, mattresses, shoes, sportswear, composite wood panels, foam seating, insulation panels, seals and gaskets, tyres, adhesives, surface coatings and sealants, spandex, carpet underlay and hard-plastic parts.

P. microspora resides in the Ecuadorian rainforest and was discovered by a group of student researchers led by molecular biochemistry professor Scott Strobel as part of Yale’s annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory. Student Pria Anand discovered that the fungi ate polyurethane and could even do so in anaerobic conditions.

This is huge news for waste management. Another fine example of fungi saving the world (for others see Paul Stamet’s fine work, video above) and should be applauded as such. But how will this affect the fungi? A steady stream of trash in, what comes out? How will the fungi evolve based on this new diet?

P. microspora has another significantly beneficial use for humans. The fungi is an endophyte of certain yew trees (Taxus spp.), meaning it lives happily within the yew not causing disease. Endophytes can produce some of the same bioactive natural products as the host plant. In this case taxol, a high-effective anticancer agent is produced by the fungus as well.

Biodegradation of Polyester Polyurethane by Endophytic Fungi

Yale researchers find fungus that can break down plastic

http://eplayer.clipsyndicate.com/cs_api/get_swf/3/&pl_id=21394&wpid=10006&page_count=12&windows=1&va_id=2718596&show_title=0&auto_start=0&auto_next=1

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