What is Mycoremediation?

Mycoremediation is a form of bioremediation that enlists the biological activity of fungi to restore polluted environments to a less polluted state (Singh, 2006). The term 'mycoremediation' was coined by mycologist Paul Stamets and relates specifically to the ecological functionality of fungal mycelium rather than 'mushrooms' which are the fruiting bodies of the mycelium. Bioremediation has been common practice for a very long time, and can be traced back as far as 600bc when the Romans used bacteria to treat their waste water (Singh, 2006). Mycoremediation is however a younger branch of the science of bioremediation and has only been practiced since the beginning of the 20th century. There is a lack of fundamental knowledge within the field which has translated to slow advancement of the science (Sasek, 2003).

Mycologist Paul Stamet and his fungi library
Fungal mycelium

Role of fungi within ecosystems:

The role of fungi within ecosystems has been widely recognised. Fungi form four basic ecological roles; decomposers, mycorrhizal interaction, parasites and a food source. Of these processes it is the ability of fungi to decompose that forms the integral part of mycoremediation, a process recognised as 'mycodegredation'. Decomposition is the process of breaking down organic compounds into inorganic molecules that can be utilised by other life-forms. For this reason fungi form a crucial role in the nutrient exchange cycle.

The soil food web showing the role of fungi as decomposers. Picture sourced from:

This is a talk by mycologist Paul Stamets, discussing some of the advantages of using fungi to tackle problems facing the environment and society.

How does Mycoremediation work?

The applications of Mycoremediation.

The advantages of using Mycoremediation.

Further direction for the science.

Author: Justin Hurley Ley