Why Wood Decay Fungi?
Why develop a set of keys limited to fungi utilizing
wood as a substrate?
First of all, wood decay fungi are important and, therefore, identification keys to these fungi are useful. Some of the reasons why wood decay fungi are important:
- Wood decay fungi are the preeminant recyclers of wood in ecosystems. Without these fungi, wood would never
decay. We would be "up to our eyeballs" in twigs, limbs, and tree trunks. Worse, without decomposition, valuable nutrients in
wood are locked up and unavailable for new growth.
- Wood decay fungi cause economic loss. Some of these fungi infect forest trees and valuable landscape trees. Knowing the fungus species growing on a tree can help the forester determine the likely extent of loss and or risk to people and property.
- Wood decay fungi include many sought-after edible specie.
- Wood decay fungi are used as mycomedicinals, the mycological equivalent of herbal medicinals.
- Wood decay fungi are of interest as sources of new pharmaceutical and industrial compounds.
- Wood decay fungi are often beautiful and are favorite subjects for photographers and other artists.
- Wood decay fungi are used by hobbyists to dye wool and other fabrics.
- Wood decay fungi utilize different proportions of cellulose and lignin from wood, leading to what is termed
white or brown rot. This distinction is important taxonomically. For example, certain genera are made up of exclusively white or brown rot fungi.
- Wood decay fungi provide subjects for student research projects.
- No matter what time of year or the weather, fungi growing on wood have saved many a foray from coming up empty-handed.
Secondly, limiting the keys to fungi growing on wood simplifies the identification process. By excluding from the keys mycorrhizal and other terrestrial species, leaf litter fungi, and any other fungi not growing on wood, there are far fewer species for the user of the keys to sort through.
This page © 2008 by Gary Emberger, Messiah College