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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 anatomy
Mohamed Reply
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Julius Reply
What's the function of epiglottis
Ugo Reply
What Is The Other Name For Intestinal Juice?
Justin Reply
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rick Reply
what are the types of cell
Bernard Reply
prokaryotic and eukaryotic
Yazi
prokaryotic cell and eukaryotic cell
Grace
what is the protein found in the blood?
Tobias Reply
globin
Joelia
Globin
globulins
EZRA
globulins
SASMITA
globulins
Grace
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Emmanuel Reply
Parasitic movement is a problem for all of us. So is its companion, parasitic tension. Parasitic movement is the excess contraction of muscles that you don't actually need to complete an action.
freya
HW a u
Nyandera
cool
Bigenis
am OK how a u
Ocen
absorption may simply mean utilization of food in the body
Bigenis
what are eukaryotic cells
Thiza Reply
eukaryotic cells which posses a true nucleus that is the DNA is enclosed and covered by a nuclear membrane
Grace
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Kazula Reply
hi
Lagos
23 haploid and 23diploid
Patson
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sivajijadhav @815.com
good morning guyz
Joelia
morning
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hi
Justin
Good
Angela
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Angela
good, reading all alone is the best for me
Julius
what is the important of sex
Aremu Reply
why did human being need sex?
Aremu
because he/she have feelings
Chripine
reproduction...to make more
Yazi
due to active harmon
Manish
One important of sex is to reproduce
Emma
to ensure the countinuty of life
Yusuf
all of you are right
Edith
for sexual satisfaction and birth
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Asiya Reply
The strength or force that allows something to continue or grow stronger or faster as time pass
Emma
What is Centripetal Force?
Justin
centrepital force is the inward force required to keep a body moving with constant speed in a circular path
Yusuf
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Takii Reply
List four condition necessary for seed germination
Tedeka Reply
water,air(oxygen),light,temperature
Hassan
water, light, oxygen and temperature
lilchris
water, oxygen, light temperature
Mike
water oxygen light and temperature
John
sun light, temperature, water, oxygen
Julius
water, oxygen, light, tell.
Julius
what is anatomy
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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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