The role of fungi | SA Garden and Home

The role of fungi

TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS DIBA RIKHOTSO (SANPARKS BIOTECHNICIAN)
Last updated on 11 November 2016

How would the Garden Route National Park indigenous forest function without fungi? A recent research project aims to determine the variety of macro-fungi in sections of the forests where timber has been harvested

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Wood-rot fungi are an essential component in forest ecosystems. While some are capable of causing disease to trees, the large majority are secondary invaders that feed on dead or dying plant material.

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Pathogenic wood-rotting fungi can attack and kill a wide range of trees resulting in a drastic shift in the structure of forests. The fungi infect trees through wounds, broken branches or via root systems.

Trees weakened or killed by primary wood-rot fungi are easily inhabited by the secondary invaders, which digest their main cell wall components and carbohydrates and convert them into nutrients, which are redistributed in the soil.

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Forest trees softened and decayed by these fungi are also used as a habitat by many animals, cavity nesting birds and other fungi. Ultimately, although being able to parasitise and kill living trees, wood-rot fungi also contribute to the conservation of forest health.

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Sources:

SANParks Times sanparkstimes.co.za