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Growth and Function of Mycelial Fungi

As decomposer organisms, pathogens, plant symbionts and nutrient cyclers, fungi are of fundamental importance in the terrestrial environment. Moreover, in addition to their well-known applications in industry (e.g. citric acid production), many species also have great potential in environmental biotechnological areas including biological control and bioremediation. Furthermore, the significance of the role of fungi play as agents of geochemical change is only now being fully realised. An understanding of Fungal penetration and biotransformation of mineral-based substrata, in particular, building materials such as stone and concrete will be vital to e.g. the nuclear industry which requires stable, impermeable building materials to construct new storage facilities, as well as protecting older irradiated sites (such as Chernobyl).

The study of this important class of organisms is difficult through experimental means alone due to the heterogeneity of their natural growth habitat and the microscopic scale of growth. In this group we have used a number of modelling techniques to studied may aspects of fungal growth at scales ranging from the micron (thigmatrophic - groove following- behaviour of stressed hyphal tips) to the centimetre (biomass distributions of colonies, acidification of the environment and growth through soil). The models derived have been both continuous and discrete and comprise both deterministic and stochastic elements. Our present focus is on the role of fungal communities in the penetration and biotransformation of mineral-based substrata in sub-terrestrial and sub-aerial ecosystems, as well as in the built environment, with particular emphasis on their relevance to the nuclear industry.

Key group publications:

  • Functional consequences of translocation in mycelial fungi,
    Boswell, G.P., Jacobs, H., Davidson, F.A., Gadd, G.M., Ritz, K., J. Theor. Biol., 217(4): 459-477 (2002)

  • Mathematical modelling of the form and function of fungal mycelia,
    Davidson, F.A., Cambridge University Press, (2007)

  • Mathematical modelling of fungal growth and function,
    Davidson F.A., Boswell, G.P., Fischer M.W., Heaton, L. Hofstadler D. and Roper M., IMA Fungus, 2: 33-373 (2011)