Water Scarcity and Fungi:
How the global water crisis and mycology intertwine
By Mara Penfil
Fungi Need Water
From fields to forests mushrooms thrive in moist, wet environments. Increasing water scarcity across the globe, however, threatens the health of humans and fungi alike.
Fungal biodiversity is at extreme risk for decreasing across ecosystems. Fungal networks, which are intimately connected with plants, animals and other microorganisms, play key roles in these diverse ecosystems. The loss of fungi in an ecosystem will directly affect the rest of the biodiversity in that area. As the loss of ecological biodiversity continues, we will be confronted with new and more widespread environmental, societal and economical challenges, some of which we are already facing.
Water scarcity also poses a threat to all food growers: large, small and everyone in between. The cost of water increases as municipalities have to create new tactics and infrastructure to siphon water from one area of relative abundance, to that which is barren. Though new mushroom farms are rapidly emerging as demand grows for gourmet and medicinal mushrooms, the increased cost of a dwindling supply of water will jeopardize farmers and their hydrophilic crops.
Severe droughts like the recent Australian drought that lasted nearly a decade, and the current California drought that is going on its third year, are reminders that water scarcity is a global challenge that cannot be ignored. As droughts intensify, water contamination becomes a looming threat at every faucet.
Rural communities that still primarily rely on well-water are at an increased risk. As groundwater is depleted without much hope for replenishment, contaminants become ever more concentrated. Residents of Seville, in California’s Central Valley, know not to drink the toxic water contaminated by industry-originating nitrates. The dangerously high levels of nitrates in this region cause residents- many of which are already below the poverty line- to spend nearly 10-percent of their income on water.
Though there is nothing we can do to completely reverse the deleterious impacts of past industrial pollution, we can choose to actively address the arising issues. Already being put into practice in California’s Bay Area, mycofilters could potentially be used to help clean the currently undrinkable groundwater.
Other areas that mycoremediation could play a pivotal role in reducing water contamination is in the Great Lakes Basin where phosphorus from agricultural runoff is causing an abundance of toxic algal-blooms to form.
Though this is not fungally oriented, a special interactive teleconference, entitled “California Drought: Lessons from Australia”, is to take place this Tuesday, March 18th at 10am PST. This is a free, two-hour briefing, hosted by Circle of Blue’s Choke Point: Index.
For more than a decade, Circle of Blue has reported from the front lines of the global competition between water, food and energy in a changing climate. Circle of Blue’s Choke Point: Index reports on the precarious condition of the freshwater supply in three iconic American farm regions, including California’s Central Valley.
The teleconference is open for thousands of participants globally to engage in dialogue with a panel of water experts, from Australia and the US, including scientists, policy makers and journalists. There will be organized break-out groups, discussion, participation and Q&A.
By adding your voice to the call you can bring your perspectives, ideas and expertise to the global community. You can share your stories and learn how others are responding to our shared water crisis.
The free conference is Tuesday, March 18th. 10am-12pm PST. To register click here.
Other ways to get involved
- Monitor environmental biodiversity when you go mushroom hunting.
Write down your observations and share them with people, supportive organization and politicians from your community.
- Become active with different advocacy groups in your area.
- Ask questions- lots of questions.
- Search for solutions and put them into practice.
- Find interactive meetings like the one from Circle of Blue and share your perspectives, ideas and expertise.
Currently living in the Northern Great Lakes Region, Mara is a community organizer who merges traveling, education, and volunteer work to further the food, social, and environmental justice movements. With a growing zeal for all things fungal she spends her time working to build mycological interest and understanding around the United States and abroad. Mara’s passion to blend social and environmental justice efforts led her to co-found Female & Fungi, the online presence for the ever growing Womyn’s and Trans’ Mycological Community.