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Unveiling Fungi’s Hidden Potential in the Earth’s Preservation

Jessica, Oakham School, UK

The world we reside in today wouldn’t exist without fungi. University of Leeds scientists utilised computer models to simulate ancient Earth’s atmosphere and their results suggest that fungi extracted minerals from rocks and then transferred them to plants. This pr to absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. This process, therefore, created an oxygen-rich atmosphere and the world we know today. So, if fungi helped make our world, could it help save it?

As many know, plastic pollution is one of our Earth’s most dangerous environmental issues. Plastics can take up to 1,000 years to decompose and with over 250 million tons per year ending up in landfills and wildlife we need to significantly shorten this process. And this is where nature’s waste disposals can help. In the Sydney lab scientists have discovered that multiple kinds of fungi can produce unique enzymes that can degrade the bonds between atoms in polypropylene, which is often found in most plastics. These enzymes operate in a comparable way to the human digestive system.

So, what can we do with this phenomenal information? Unlike many organisms, most fungi are capable of anaerobic respiration making them capable to thrive in the harsh atmospheres of landfills. This means, that in theory, landfills could cease to exist.

But why are we not using mushrooms in landfills already? This information is not new, Yale University students found the first fungus with an appetite for plastics in the rainforests of Ecuador in 2011. We have known these mushrooms potential for over a decade and yet pushed it aside letting plastic pollution take hold of our environment. The reason is simple. Money. Plastic has saved thousands of people thousands of pounds and, arguably, delayed the cost of living crisis. With the massive success of plastics in the last decades reluctancy to fund solutions and alternative has increased.

So, perhaps fungi could save our world.

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