how dull culinary life would be if there were no breads, wines,
beers, or blue cheeses. Imagine pizza dough that won't rise
or even no mushrooms on your pizza. These pleasures simply would
not exist if there were no fungi.
Fungi play a role in the natural world that is far more profound
than simply providing us with culinary delights. Life as we
know it would not exist without fungi. They are the critical
link in the biological cycle of life and death.
Fungi are the great recyclers. They play a major part, with
such as bacteria, in breaking down organic matter. Without them
we would soon be up to our ears in dead plant matter and animal
carcasses. Worse still, we would be surrounded by mountains
of dung that would not rot.
Plants would soon run out of fresh nutrients. Animals in turn
would go hungry.
There would be no forests. Few people realize that trees rely
on networks of fungi working in partnership with their roots.
Without fungi to make nutrients available, trees would be unable
to survive. Consider the many roles trees play in supporting
life on earth and you'll realize the importance of this union.
Fungi have their dark side too. They have caused famine, and
disease in plants, animals, and humans. They have destroyed
buildings, bridges, even railroads. But for every species of
fungus that causes harm there are hundredsif not thousandsthat
bring benefits to humankind.
Let's take a closer look at some of the impacts fungi have on