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Certain Mushrooms Feed On Crude Oil

By James Donahue

Mycologist Paul Stamets says certain varieties of mushroom, notably the mycelium, are found to consume crude oil and may be helpful in cleaning up the shoreline damage when and if the runaway oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico is plugged.

But Stamets says the big oil companies have ignored his books and articles, in which he has called for research and development of this technique as a possible solution in the event of major oil spills.

In his website, Stamets notes that the disaster now occurring in the Gulf is so massive that he believes the use of the mycelium mushroom can only be part of the solution, although still “a valuable component in our toolset of solutions.”

He writes that “there is more oil spilled than there is currently mycelium available. Much more mycelium is needed. Fortunately, we know how to generate it.”

That is the good news. Unfortunately, the bad news is that Stamets says much more research has been needed to find other fungal varieties that also work to break down the complex mixture of toxic hydrocarbons found in crude oil. Also, the use of mycelium is a slow process, sometimes taking months.

What is not known are such questions as how many of the hydrocarbons are broken down and whether the soil or environment is eventually left completely cleaned of toxins after the mycelium has done its work. Also unknown is whether the natural plant communities as habitats can recover from the toxic waste exposure.

All fungi can be easily launched by merely sprinkling the spore throughout the area where it is desired. If the environment is right and there is food available, the mushroom will quickly appear. Thus it is feasible that the damaged marshes along the Louisiana, Alabama and Florida coasts can someday be cleaned of the toxic oil by this amazing mushroom.

What cannot be replaced are the millions of birds, turtles, clams, oysters, fish and other sea life being destroyed by not only the toxic oil, but the dispersant chemicals getting dumped into the waters by BP.

Stamets also notes that the toxic oil and chemicals now in the water will have a negative effect on both man and beast for a very long time and there will not be much that can be done to stop this.

“I have many thoughts on this disaster,” he wrote. “My first reaction is that when the skin of the Earth is punctured, bad things can happen.

“Very few in the media have mentioned the long-term, generational consequences of this oil spill. There will inevitably be a surge in cancer cases (crude oil contains known carcinogens), widespread degradation of wildlife habitat and an array of diverse and complex strains on local communities, our nation and the planetary ecosphere as a whole,” he wrote.

Stamets concluded with this ominous outlook: “We all know that the seas are connected, and ultimately our biosphere suffers globally when suffering locally. Now as the hurricane season approaches, we may see catastrophes converge to create what may be the greatest ecological disaster in hundreds of years.”