Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Fight Fungus with Fungus

The rise in global temperature is alarming. The IPCC has told us what will happen if temperatures climb 5 C.
The COP-21 agreement aims to keep it to 1.5 C (already baked into the cake), but 2 C at the high end. The effects of that will be bad enough, but don't expect that this limit will be maintained unless we do two things in the very near term: (1) stop expanding fossil fuel extraction (and put an immediate moratorium on fracking while the truth about methane leakage is investigated) , and (2) reforest, (especially in the tropics). A new study points out that we can sequester carbon much faster by regrowing forests in devastated tropical areas than by simply maintaining the remaining old growth forests.

Tropical rain forests are not the only ones at risk from climate change. The U.S. Forest Service just put out their futures projection of the northern forests, which extends all the way down here to Maryland. The outlook is grievous with myriad environmental insults being thrown at the forest ecosystems faster than they can respond. Our intervention is needed to preserve these forests and to restore their health. Perhaps the best way to do this is through improving soil health.

While mycorrhizal fungi is conducive to healthy trees, running saprophytic fungi is even more fundamental, as it builds healthy soil. At the same time, some strains can dominate fungal parasites that capitalize on the stresses imposed on forest ecosystems by climate change and population growth.

Some of the edible species +Paul Stamets recommends for this, I already grow (oyster mushroom, garden giant, and turkey tail). Other recommended species include clustered woodlover and psilocybes. Mycelium can be cultivated very rapidly and then moved into damaged or threatened woodlands. One indicator for the best places to run mycelium is the presence or absence of dominant saprophytic species. These mushrooms fit well in forest garden patches, since the gardener is more likely to be there when they are ready to pick. In either case, eating these mushrooms requires a more rigorous identity verification since they are growing among other, non-edible types.

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