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robertogreco : fungi   6

The Fantastically Strange Origin of Most Coal on Earth – Phenomena: Curiously Krulwich
"This is a story about trees—very, very strange looking trees—and some microbes that failed to show up on time. Their non-appearance happened more than 300 million years ago, and what they didn’t do, or rather what happened because they weren’t there, shapes your life and mine.

All you have to do is walk the streets of Beijing or New Delhi or Mexico City: If there’s a smog-laden sky (and there usually is), all that dust blotting out the sun is there because of this story I’m going to tell.

It begins, appropriately enough, in an ancient forest …"

[See also:
"How Fungi Saved the World"
http://feedthedatamonster.com/home/2014/7/11/how-fungi-saved-the-world

"This was the one and only time in the last 300 million years that the wood-rotting ability evolved. All the fungi today that can digest wood (and a few that can't) are the descendants of that enterprising fungus. Its strategy may have been inelegant, but wood decay played a crucial role in reversing the loss of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and bringing about the end of the Carboniferous period.

What would have happened if white rot fungi had never evolved? We can only speculate, but it's possible the world of today would look a lot like the world at the end of the Carboniferous period – cooler, high in oxygen, and with a denser atmosphere. Dragonflies with foot-and-a-half wingspans might still roam the forests, but the plant life might still be primeval, stifled by the lower carbon dioxide concentrations. Many a homeowner may disagree, but we're lucky wood-rotting fungi evolved. "]

[via:
http://interconnected.org/home/2018/01/02/filtered

"For 40 million years, trees were not biodegradable.
430 million years before present, the first vascular plants emerged from early tide pools. In order to stay upright, these plants employed cellulose, a chain of simple sugars ... it was easy to make and offered rigid yet flexible support

This is from How Fungi Saved the World.

90 million years later, heralding the Carboniferous period,
plants developed a new kind of support material, called lignin. Lignin was an improvement development over cellulose in several ways: it was harder, more rigid, and, being more complex, almost impossible to digest, which made it ideal for protecting cellulose. With lignin, plants could make wood, and it lead to the first treelike growth form.

But lignin made the lycopod trees a little too successful. Because their leaves were lofted above many herbivores and their trunks were made inedible by lignin, lycopods were virtually impervious to harm.

Dead trees piled up without decomposing. Compacted by weight, they turned to peat and then to coal. 90% of all today's coal is from this period.

Wood pollution lasted 40 million years.
Finally, however, a fungus belonging to the class Agaricomycetes - making it a distant cousin of button mushrooms - did find a crude way to break down lignin. Rather than devise an enzyme to unstitch the lignin molecule, however, it was forced to adapt a more direct strategy. Using a class of enyzmes called peroxidases, the fungus bombarded the wood with highly reactive oxygen molecules, in much the same way one might untie a knot using a flamethrower. This strategy reduced the wood to a carbohydrate-rich slurry from which the fungus could slurp up the edible cellulose.

Which leads me to think:

There's a ton of plastic in the ocean. Why not engineer a fungus to rot it? Having this magical material that lasts forever is absurd. This is a controversial idea I admit. But although I agree that we need to reduce plastic pollution (via social change and by regulatory intervention), cybernetics tells me that's a fragile solution. Homeostasis is to be found in a ecosystem of checks and balances: instead of eternal plastic, we need plastic plus a plastic-rotting fungus plus an effective-but-hard-to-apply fungicide. Then balance can be found."
2016  coal  plants  trees  fungi  science  evolution  classideas  naturalhistory  decomposition  srg  plastic 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Multispecies.net | A blog and resource hub for Multispecies Ethnography and Anthropology
"Emergent multispecies perspectives are currently challenging scholars to reconsider established approaches to pressing social, political, and environmental issues. With this in mind, we hope multispecies.net will provide a forum for creative thinking, critical commentary, and debate about relationships between humans and all other forms of life; animals, insects, plants, fungi, and microbes.

We welcome submissions which consider how humans shape, and are shaped by, relationships with other species, and which attend to the agency, subjectivity, and interests of life beyond human species bounds."
via:anne  multispecies  anthropology  ethnography  animals  nature  humans  society  environment  politics  insects  plants  fungi  microbes 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Tobias Revell / New Mumbai 2045
"In 2045, a synthetic biology research corporation, suspecting that its technology has been leaked, send out a research party to the slum city of New Mumbai to investigate. They find that the appalling living conditions of the city, coupled with the ingenuity and collective knowledge of the residents has spawned huge ingenuity in the synthetic fungi the corporation had been working on.

The residents have adapted the huge fungal structures to absorb sunlight and they use them as living power stations for their homes. They also absorb moisture from the air which can be drained off for consumption. Some of the genetic alterations making the fungi super-strong have even allowed them to be used as structures for living and growing crops on."
urbanism  urban  cities  newmumbai  sciencefiction  scifi  bioconstruction  slums  structures  syntheticbiology  biology  architecture  2045  fungi  mumbai  tobiasrevell 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Mycorrhizal Networks - Botany Photo of the Day
"Mycorrhizal fungi form obligate symbioses with trees, where the tree supplies the fungus with carbohydrate energy in return for water and nutrients the fungal mycelia gather from the soil; mycorrhizal networks form when mycelia connect the roots of two or more plants of the same or different species. Graduate student Kevin Beiler has uncovered the extent and architecture of this network through the use of new molecular tools that can distinguish the DNA of one fungal individual from another, or of one tree's roots from another. He has found that all trees in dry interior Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) forests are interconnected, with the largest, oldest trees serving as hubs, much like the hub of a spoked wheel, where younger trees establish within the mycorrhizal network of the old trees."
mapping  networks  cooperation  trees  via:hrheingold  fungi  mycorrhizalfungi  douglasfirs  biology 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Plants and fungi - Natural History Museum
"Without plants and fungi, we wouldn’t exist. They clean the air that we breathe, and provide us with food, materials and medicine. Find out if there is any truth in old wives’ tales of herbal remedies, and attract bees, butterflies and bats to your g
plants  science  fungi  nature  museums  history  earth  environment  medicine  food 
october 2006 by robertogreco

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