mycoremediation
(my.koh.ruh.mee.dee.AY.shun) n. The cleansing of a natural habitat by using fungi to break down harmful bacteria, toxic waste, and other impurities.
mycoremediated adj.

Example Citation:
Once you've heard "renaissance mycologist" Paul Stamets talk about mushrooms, you'll never look at the world — not to mention your backyard — in the same way again. ...

Until recently, claims Stamets, mushrooms were largely ignored by the mainstream medical and environmental establishment. Or, as he puts it, "they suffered from biological racism." But Stamets is about to thrust these higher fungi into the 21st century. In collaboration with several public and private agencies, he is pioneering the use of "mycoremediation" and "mycofiltration" technologies. These involve the cultivation of mushrooms to clean up toxic waste sites, improve ecological and human health, and in a particularly timely bit of experimentation, break down chemical warfare agents possessed by Saddam Hussein.
—Linda Baker, "How mushrooms will save the world," Salon.com, November 25, 2002

Earliest Citation:
A discussion covers Battelle Marine Sciences Laboratory's mycoremediation method; the procedures involved starting from the collection of higher fungi from a contaminated area of interest or a comparable site, including the steps of selection, culture, toxicity testing, screening, preconditioning, mesocosm-scale testing, and pilot-scale application, all resulting in the development of proprietary fungal strains predisposed to remediate specific contaminants at increased efficiency under particular environmental regimes.
—S.A. Thomas, et al., "Mycoremediation: A method for test- to pilot-scale application," API EnCompass, April 17, 1999

Notes:
The word mycoremediation combines the prefix myco-, "fungus," with the word remediation, "the action of remedying." The process works because of something called the mycelium. This is an underground matrix of cells — the fruit of which is the mushroom — that can extend for thousands of acres (they're the largest organisms on earth). The mycelium secretes enzymes that break down organic material (think composting). However, it's a happy coincidence that the chemical structures of petroleum, pesticides, herbicides, and other toxic products are remarkably similar to that of plant fiber. Therefore, given the right kind of mycelium, these fungal mats can decompose pollutants as readily as they decompose organic matter.

Here's another excerpt from the above Salon.com article that describes the remarkable results from one experiment:


A couple of years ago Stamets partnered with Battelle, a major player in the bioremediation industry, on an experiment conducted on a site owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation in Bellingham. Diesel oil had contaminated the site, which the mycoremediation team inoculated with strains of oyster mycelia that Stamets had collected from old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. ... Lo and behold. After four weeks, oyster mushrooms up to 12 inches in diameter had formed on the mycoremediated soil. After eight weeks, 95 percent of the hydrocarbons had broken down, and the soil was deemed nontoxic and suitable for use in WSDOT highway landscaping.
—Linda Baker, "How mushrooms will save the world," Salon.com, November 25, 2002

Related Words:

Categories: