Magical Mushrooms

There are more species of fungi, bacteria, and protozoa in a single scoop of soil than there are plants and vertebrate animals in all of North America

- Paul Stamets

Unless you are a Mycelium expert such as author Paul Stamets, you would not know about their amazing properties. While we may admire a mushroom growing out from the soil, it is the out-of-sight (and often forgotten) mycelium that is the essential part of the organism. The mycelium is found in the soil and is there throughout the year and is not a static object. It grows and may die. It reacts to varying environmental conditions and other organisms, producing different growth forms or structures, depending on circumstances.

Fungi are the neurological network of nature. They form vast networks in the ground, a transport system for nutrients in the forest floor. In one cubic inch of soil, there could be eight miles of mycelium. Fungi can hold 30,000 times its mass. They are critical to forming the rich earth beneath our feet yet their pervasiveness remains hidden.

Fungi can:

  • Restore habitat that’s been devastated by pollution
  • Naturally fight flu viruses and other diseases
  • Kill ants, termites and other insects without using pesticides
  • Create a sustainable fuel known as Econol
  • Accelerate the growth of new forests

Habitat Restoration via Mycorestoration 

Mycorestoration℠ is defined as the use is the use of fungi to help repair or restore ecologically harmed habitats – regardless of whether the habitats have been damaged from human activities or natural disasters.

Saprophytic and mycorrhizal fungi is used in Mycorestoration techniques which include:

  1. mycofiltration – filtration of water
  2. mycoremediation – the breakdown of toxic wastes
  3. mycoforestry – the use of fungi for empowering ecoforestry strategies

Mycofiltration Example – Bainbridge Farm uses mycofiltration to protect stream and salmon

Barbara Eddy is a horse lover and owner of Barnebee Farm on Bainbridge Island, Washington State. A stream runs through her property and salmon come upstream every few years to spawn. Barbara is a staunch environmentalist and though she already made sure her horses were prevented from accessing the stream, installed a storm-water settlement pond and a bioswale, she went one step further. District engineer Rich Geiger was familiar with Paul Stamet’s company Fungi Perfecti and hired the company to provide potentially the first mycofiltration solution of its kind in the world to take care of any possible fecal coliform bacteria from the horse manure.

The Fungi Perfecti mycofiltration product consists of biodegradable bags which are  filled with alder chips inoculated with mycelia. The mycelia is a mushroom that eats contaminants as a food source. The bags create a physical barrier consisting of a network of fibres that are only one cell wide. Using mature mushrooms ensured that it began acting as soon as it was installed.  The engineers first created a barrier of natural vegetation as the first filter to be encountered by the runoff. The water then flows to the bioswale where the Fungi Perfecti bags have been installed. The team took care to not immerse the bags in water  because the mushrooms die when submerged. The installation is good for a year;  the mycelium must be replenished annually.

As an added benefit,  the presence of the mycelium also increases the efficiency of the first barrier in what is called a supercharge effect. As the mycelium consumes bacteria,  it releases nutrients for plants in the vegetative barrier which act to increase their efficiency at removing bacteria and releases enzymes that promote growth of other things that also consume fecal coliform bacteria.