There are many benefits of fungi! They are decomposers, removing what would otherwise be debris from the soil. Through this decomposition, fungi are important nutrient recyclers in the cycle of life. Many fungi also have a symbiotic relationship with plants, particularly benefiting the structure of the root system. Fungi also feed animals; for example, small marsupials in Australia feed off of diverse and native truffle fungi.
Fungi decompose dead organic matter, attack living plants, produce wood rots making nutrients available to plants, and return organic matter to soil. A key role for fungi is their capacity to decompose major plant components – particularly lignin and cellulose (the major components of plant cell walls). Fungi are dominant decomposers and nutrient recyclers of forest litter and debris. Without decomposer fungi we would soon be buried in debris.
Fungi have symbiotic (mutually beneficial) partnerships with many plants. Some fungal networks act like an extra root system taking up, transforming and transporting nutrients from soil and delivering them to plant roots. The so-called mycorrhiza “fungus-root” systems are often superior to roots alone. The fungi can capture nutrients in the soil far distant from roots. The fungi benefit as the plants supply sugars to them. Many of the world’s plants are partnered by mycorrhizal fungi in natural ecosystems. In Australia hundreds of different native mycorrhizal fungi partner native trees, shrubs and herbs such as eucalypts, sheoaks, wattles, and poison peas.
People have used fungi as a food source, to be cultured to produce antibiotics and other drugs, to make bread rise by adding fungi to the dough and it is used to ferment beer and wine.
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