The importance of fungi in our world

Essay by butterfliesA+, March 2004

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Fungi have a very important role in nature. Fungi are aslo and break down and feed on decaying organic material or dead organisms. Fungi work along with monerans and protist to decompose the waste and remains of plants and animals. Fungi obtain nutrients by secreting digestive enzymes break down or digest onto the food source. The enzymes break down or digest the food. The nutrients are then released into the environment to be used by other organisms and the fungus itself. The nutrients are then returned to the environment as nitrogen and phosphorus. Fungi are also key components in two important types of mutualistic associations- mycorrihizae with fungi. The fungi provides the plants with water and minerals, and the plants provide the fungi with photosynthetically produced food. As acid rain destroys mycorrizal, many forest are dying. Without mycorrhizae, most forest trees are unable to absorb minerals from soil. Lichen is a mutualistic association between a fungus and either a green alga or a cyanobacterium.

The fungus absorbs water and other nutrients from the environment and the alga uses them for photosynthesis. In turn, the alga produces organic molecules that the funguses use as food. Lichens can live in very harsh environments due to is ability to dry out very quickly. When lichen dries out, it is less likely to be damaged by very cold or very hot temperatures. Lichens play an important role in ecosystems as pioneers, the first organisms to inhabit bare rock. Lichens are very sensitive to air pollution. Since lichens are so sensitive to air pollution scientists use them as indicator of air quality, one scientist estimated that a layer of organic debris about 12 miles thick would now cover the earth if decomposition had never occurred. Without decomposers, ecosystems would collapse because many organisms would not...