<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the role of fungi in the ecosystem
  • Describe mutualistic relationships of fungi with plant roots and photosynthetic organisms
  • Describe the beneficial relationship between some fungi and insects

Fungi play a crucial role in the balance of ecosystems. They colonize most habitats on Earth, preferring dark, moist conditions. They can thrive in seemingly hostile environments, such as the tundra, thanks to a most successful symbiosis with photosynthetic organisms like algae to produce lichens. Fungi are not obvious in the way large animals or tall trees appear. Yet, like bacteria, they are the major decomposers of nature. With their versatile metabolism, fungi break down organic matter, which would not otherwise be recycled.

Habitats

Although fungi are primarily associated with humid and cool environments that provide a supply of organic matter, they colonize a surprising diversity of habitats, from seawater to human skin and mucous membranes. Chytrids are found primarily in aquatic environments. Other fungi, such as Coccidioides immitis , which causes pneumonia when its spores are inhaled, thrive in the dry and sandy soil of the southwestern United States. Fungi that parasitize coral reefs live in the ocean. However, most members of the Kingdom Fungi grow on the forest floor, where the dark and damp environment is rich in decaying debris from plants and animals. In these environments, fungi play a major role as decomposers and recyclers, making it possible for members of the other kingdoms to be supplied with nutrients and live.

Decomposers and recyclers

The food web would be incomplete without organisms that decompose organic matter ( [link] ). Some elements—such as nitrogen and phosphorus—are required in large quantities by biological systems, and yet are not abundant in the environment. The action of fungi releases these elements from decaying matter, making them available to other living organisms. Trace elements present in low amounts in many habitats are essential for growth, and would remain tied up in rotting organic matter if fungi and bacteria did not return them to the environment via their metabolic activity.

Photo shows two shell-shaped mushrooms growing on decaying wood.
Fungi are an important part of ecosystem nutrient cycles. These bracket fungi growing on the side of a tree are the fruiting structures of a basidiomycete. They receive their nutrients through their hyphae, which invade and decay the tree trunk. (credit: Cory Zanker)

The ability of fungi to degrade many large and insoluble molecules is due to their mode of nutrition. As seen earlier, digestion precedes ingestion. Fungi produce a variety of exoenzymes to digest nutrients. The enzymes are either released into the substrate or remain bound to the outside of the fungal cell wall. Large molecules are broken down into small molecules, which are transported into the cell by a system of protein carriers embedded in the cell membrane. Because the movement of small molecules and enzymes is dependent on the presence of water, active growth depends on a relatively high percentage of moisture in the environment.

Questions & Answers

what is deglutition
Nalumansi Reply
what is biology
Sierrah Reply
biology is a type of science that studies living things
xjuicy_editzz
viruses are composed of what
Daniel Reply
what are some disease caused by virus
Daniel
what are some disease caused by virus
Daniel
what are some disease caused by virus
Daniel
Ebola
Alhassan
Ebola,rabies,polio,hepatitis and small pox
Magoba
Corona (viral disease)
Musoke
viruses kinda in a sense not "living" what mean that a virus molecule that attaches to living organisms cells to destroy/kill them. so to answer your question they are composed/made up of molecules (please note that I am not 100% sure, please feel free to correct me :] )
xjuicy_editzz
what is the use of biology
Tarkaa Reply
To widen our reasoning abilities about the past and the present events in biology and life at large
Musoke
To understand our biography
Musoke
to study living things
Narh
Among all these which one is the major difference between platyhelminthes and coelenterates? 1. are multicellular 2. have developed a mesoderm 3. reproduce sexually 4. reproduce asexually
Habeeb Reply
what is evolution?
Emmanuelfray Reply
how can you define biology in terms of a burning fire in the bush?
Emmanuelfray
what is a cell
Kagelelo Reply
cell is a functional and unit of life
Sarita
it is the building block n basic unit of life
Narh
describe the process of testing the presence of starch in a leaf
Estel Reply
give me somes of examples.
Manu Reply
give example of what.
Ante
example of what
Elizabeth
what are chromosomes?
Ante
what is Biology
Darkoa
Biology is the study of animals and plants on their characters and death
Okol
No biology is the study of life (living thing's)
Achibiri
Chromosomes refers to one of the small parts like threads in the NUCLEI (central part )of plants and animals cell that carry the GENES
Estel
Yeah okol....Bio-means life and -logy means study/knowledge
Estel
Ecology is the study of
Abdul Reply
Ecology is the study of the interaction of organism in each other and their environment.
Ante
Ecology is the study of the interaction of organism in each other and their environment
Everlove
oh yes!!! exactly
Great
thank much
Ante
what is biome?
Ante
a geographical area with dinstic species
Francis
thanks much it very helpful
Ante
my pleasure
Francis
characteristics of living things
Jane Reply
excretion, movement, sensitivity, reproduction,growth, respiration,nutrition
Estel
what are there function
Ante
what are their function
Ante
what is the two type of reproduction?
Ante
sexual reproduction and asexual reproduction
Abdul
what are their function
Manu
Hi
Olufunmilokun
What is light independent reaction
Benjamin Reply
correct word or phrase. ______A____ uses carbon dioxide and _____B______ to make sugar during______C______. _____D______ traps light energy during this process. *
Andrea Reply
A_plant ,B_water,C_photosynthesis,D_chlorophyll
Abdul
Plant,sunlight,photosynthesis
Olufunmilokun
by which of the following feature c3 and c4 plant similar A .enzyme used to fix carbon dioxide B.cell where calvin cycle takes place C.cell where carbon dioxide fixation takes place
Kaleab Reply
correct word or phrase. ______A____ uses carbon dioxide and _____B______ to make sugar during______C______. _____D______ traps light energy during this process. *
Andrea
what is biology ?
Bizone Reply
study of organisms
Aurelia
is the study of living organisms
Emmanuelfray
what is reproductive system
Asiya
Is the giving birth of offspring of the same one
YAYAH
it is the study of living organism
Narh

Get Jobilize Job Search Mobile App in your pocket Now!

Get it on Google Play Download on the App Store Now




Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Biology' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask