Mycoremediation in the Gulf

oil spill in gulf

Paul Stamets has written a brief article summarizing the potential and the obstacles to mycoremediation in the Gulf of Mexico.  Obviously, based on Paul’s own research and efforts, the approach is viable and doable, but there remain a lot of unknowns.

First and foremost is our poor understanding of how mycelium will react to the salt water of a coastal environment.  This is going to be key.  This has been on my mind a lot when I think about the possibility of using mushroom mycelium to help heal the damage.  I was surprised that even Stamets himself doesn’t know what the potential effects of salt water will be.  I can only assume that the mushrooms won’t respond all that well.  However, I also wonder if there aren’t species that have evolved in this type of environment, and perhaps have a natural resistance to certain levels of salt water.

Our knowledge and understanding are the biggest obstacles.  The few trials that have been run have been done on a small scale, using a single species in a fairly controlled environment.  We need to start running more trials on a massive scale RIGHT NOW.  We need to identify species that may do well in the high saline environment, and start producing the mycelium.

And this, of course, is another big obstacle: having the equipment and the personnel to produce the quantities of mycelium that we need.  Producing mushroom mycelium is a fairly specialized affair.  Any detail-minded person with the desire and work-ethic can learn the sterile culture techniques necessary to produce large amounts of mycelium.  It is unknown the overall availability of well-trained lab techs ready to work on this problem.  My guess is availability is limited.

The scale of this disaster is impossible to comprehend.  Typically, and tragically, our response seems underwhelming at best.  Looks like we’re knee-deep in the Long Emergency now.


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