Girl Planting seeds

More than decomposers: fungi influence the recovery of pollutants in the environment

Fungi are everywhere. They live in our backyard topsoil, on trees in the forest, and sometimes on an old piece of bread in the fridge. We bake with fungi (yeast) and use certain species to ferment our beverages. Fungi are extremely important in the environment, as they break down and recycle tough carbon compounds like tree bark and leaf litter for energy. Fungi are also capable of recycling elements, such as manganese (Mn) and selenium (Se). While both of these elements are important elements in the environment at low levels, if concentrations reach too high, they can become harmful pollutants. Certain species of fungi can make brown manganese oxide minerals out of Mn dissolved in water. These same fungi can also take Se dissolved in water and make incredibly small (nanometer-sized) solid red particles of pure selenium. Manganese oxide minerals and the solid red selenium particles do not dissolve well in water. Since dissolved forms of these elements are more toxic to aquatic life than their solid forms, scientists and engineers hope to one day use these fungi to clean up polluted environments.  Read more....



close (X)