Happy Earth Day!

This Earth Day, South Hill Forest Products is praising the power of mushrooms!

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             Three years ago right around Earth Day, 11 lives were lost as the Deepwater Horizon oilrig exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion released inordinate amounts of oil, reaching the coastline over the next few days and sending plumes into the depths of the Gulf.

BP Oil Spill

Various clean up methods were applied in the Gulf of Mexico to reduce the impacts from this devastating spill. These methods include (but are not limited to): the chemical dispersant Corexit 9527, surface burns, microbial additions, and passive collection sorbents. However, one technique that has yet to be applied widespread in the Gulf of Mexico post-Deepwater Horizon Spill is mycoremediation. According to Paul Stamets, fungi can actually aid in recovery of damaged ecosystems caused by human activity or natural disasters, making mycoremediation an excellent choice for reducing the effects of the Deepwater Horizon Spill.

Mycoremediation is a form of mycorestoration that involves repairing the weakened immune system of ecosystems by denaturing of toxic wastes and absorbing heavy metals. Fungi are excellent molecular disassemblers, as they can easily break down long-chained hydrocarbons into carbon dioxide and water. Enzymes such as lignin peroxidases, manganese peroxidases, and laccases are secreted by the vegetative part of the fungi (mycelia) and allow for the break down of hydrogen-carbon and carbon-carbon bonds.

According to Paul Stamets’ book, Mycelium Running, mycoremediation is one of the most inexpensive ways to remediate polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from soil. Mycoremediation was used to mitigate the San Francisco Bay Oil Spill of 2007. Oyster mushrooms, Pleurotus ostreatus, were grown on mats of human hair that had absorbed oil on the surface of the bay. In most circumstances, surface oil would be burned off, releasing toxins into the air that can spread for miles. By using the oyster mushrooms, the toxins did not become volatile and spread, and the oyster mushrooms facilitated the creation of fertilizer, which was then used for landscaping.

Here are some photos from an experiment conducted by Stamets. See the results for yourself!
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Mushrooms, including the Oyster mushrooms that we grow here at Ithaca College, certainly are great restorative agents to repair damaged ecosystems.

And for that, South Hill Forest Products praises the power of mushrooms this Earth Day!

For more information about the power of mushrooms,check out Paul Stamets TED Talk:

6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World.

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