[Sdpg] PAUL STAMETS' STATEMENT ON MYCOREMEDIATION AND ITS APPLICATIONS TO OIL SPILLS
Wesley Roe and Santa Barbara Permaculture Network
lakinroe at silcom.com
Mon May 24 20:10:07 PDT 2010
PAUL STAMETS' STATEMENT
ON MYCOREMEDIATION AND ITS APPLICATIONS TO OIL SPILLS
The BP oil spill has inflicted enormous harm in
the Gulf of Mexico and will continue to do so for
months, if not decades, to come. I have many
thoughts on this disaster. My first reaction is
that when the skin of the Earth is punctured, bad
things can happen.
Clearly, this disaster could and should have been
prevented. Despite all their assurances of
safety, BP and/or BP's subcontractors, failed to
ensure the functionality of the emergency
equipment on the Deep Horizon rig. The oil
industry claims that further regulation will
handcuff them, but it is now obvious that more
steps need to be taken to prevent a catastrophe
like this from ever happening again.
However, this spill did happen, and we now must
deal with the aftermath. Although estimates have
been that BP could be liable for more than 14
billion dollars in clean up damages, very few in
the media have mentioned the long-term,
generational consequences of this oil spill.
There will inevitably be a surge in cancer cases,
widespread degradation of wildlife habitat, and
an array of diverse and complex strains on local
communities, our nation, and the planetary
ecosphere as a whole. We all know that the seas
are connected, and ultimately our biosphere
suffers globally when suffering locally. Now as
the hurricane season approaches, we may see
catastrophes converge to create what may be the
greatest ecological disaster in hundreds of years.
While we will need a wide array of efforts to
address this complex problem, mycoremediation is
a valuable component in our toolset of solutions.
Mycoremediation has demonstrated positive
results, verified by scientists in many
countries. However, there is more oil spilled
than there is currently mycelium available. Much
more mycelium is needed and, fortunately, we know
how to generate it.
Here is what we know about mycoremediation, based
on tests conducted by myself, my colleagues and
other researchers who have published their
results. (See attached references.)
What we know:
1) More than 120 novel enzymes have been
identified from mushroom-forming fungi.
2) Various enzymes breakdown a wide assortment of hydrocarbon toxins.
3) My work with Battelle Laboratories, in
collaboration with their scientists, resulted in
TAH's (Total Aromatic Hydrocarbons) in diesel
contaminated soil to be reduced from 10,000 ppm
to < 200 ppm in 16 weeks from a 25% inoculation
rate of oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus) mycelium,
allowing the remediated soil to be approved for
use as landscaping soil along highways. (Thomas
et al., 1999)
4) Oil contains a wide variety of toxins, many of which are carcinogens.
5) Mycelium more readily degrades lower molecular
weight hydrocarbons (3,4,5 ring) than heavier
weight hydrocarbons. However, the heavier weight
hydrocarbons are reduced via mycelial enzymes
into lighter weight hydrocarbons, allowing for a
staged reduction with subsequent mycelial
6) Aged mycelium from oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus
ostreatus) mixed in with 'compost' made from
woodchips and yard waste (50:50 by volume)
resulted in far better degradation of
hydrocarbons than oyster mushroom mycelium or
7) Oyster mycelium does not degrade keratin-based
hair as it produces little or no keratinases,
whereas other mold fungi such as Chaetomium
species (which include some high
temperature-tolerant leaf mold fungi) produce
8) Worms die when put into contact with high
concentrations of hydrocarbon saturated soils,
but live after mycelial treatments reduce the
toxins below the lethal thresholds.
9) Spring inoculations work better than fall
inoculations as the mycelium has more time to
grow-out. Bioregional specificities must be
10) Amplifying native mushroom species in the
bioregion impacted by toxic spills work better
than non-native species.
11) More funding is needed to better understand
and implement mycoremediation technologies.
12) Oil spills will occur in the future-we need to be ready for them!
What we don't know:
1) The effect of salt water on the growth of
mycelium on hair mats soaked in oil. The Presidio
project with Matter of Trust did not test the
hair mats used to soak up the Cosco Busan oil
spill in San Francisco bay. The hair mats that
were tested were ones that were put into contact
with motor oil and Bunker C oil collected from
the bowels of the Cosco Busan, without saltwater.
2) The differential gradients of decomposition of
the complex oil constituents from contact with
Oyster mushroom mycelium. Different toxins
degrade at different rates when placed into
contact with mycelium.
3) The variables that influence the success of
mycoremediation, particularly since the targeted
toxins are often complex mixtures of volatile and
4) How many other species of fungi could be
applied for mycoremediation beyond the few that
have been tested? Up to now, Oyster mushroom
mycelium (Pleurotus ostreatus) has been tested
successfully but there are literally thousands of
other species yet to be tested for
5) How each fungal species used pre-selects the
subsequent biological populations and how these
further enable plant communities as habitats
recover from toxic waste exposure?
6) Whether or not the mushrooms grown on
decomposing toxic wastes are safe to eat.
7) To what degree of decomposition by mycelium of
toxic soils makes the soils safe for food crops.
8) How economically practical will it be to
remove mushrooms that have hyper-accumulated
heavy metals-will this be a viable remediation
strategy? Which species are best for hyper
accumulating specific metals?
9) How to finance/design composting centers
around population centers near pollution threats.
10) How to train-on a massive scale-the
mycotechnicians needed to implement
11) How to fund "Myco-U's", learning centers with
emphasis on implementing myco-solutions to human
made and natural catastrophes.
12) How extensively and diversely will
mycoremediation practices be needed in the future?
How can we help?
Knowing that the extent of this disaster eclipses
our mycological resources should not be a reason
to not act.
I proposed in 1994 that we have Mycological
Response Teams (MRTs) in place to react to
catastrophic events, from hurricanes to oil
spills. We need to preposition composting and
mycoremediation centers adjacent to population
centers. We should set MRTs into motion,
centralized in communities, which are actively
involved in recycling, composting and
permaculture-utilizing debris from natural or
man-made calamities to generate enzymes and
rebuild healthy local soils.
I see the urgent need to set up webinar-like,
Internet-based modules of education to
disseminate methods for mycoremediation training
so people throughout the world can benefit from
the knowledge we have gained through the past
decade of research. Such hubs of learning could
cross-educate others and build a body of
knowledge that would be further perfected over
time, benefiting from the successes and failures
of those in different bioregions. The cumulative
knowledge gained from a centralized data hub
could emerge as a robust yet flexible platform
that could help generations to come. Scientists,
policy makers, and citizens would be empowered
with practical mycoremediation tools for
addressing environmental disasters.
There are additional opportunities here. By
encouraging strategically placed gourmet mushroom
production centers near debris fields from
natural and human-made disasters, we can open a
pathway for mycoremediation. The 'aged compost'
that is produced after mushrooms are harvested is
rich in enzymes-a value-added by-product and this
'waste' product is aptly suited for
mycoremediation purposes. What most people do not
realize is that most mushroom farms generate this
compost by the tons and are eager for it to be
On a grand scale, I envision that we, as a
people, develop a common myco-ecology of
consciousness and address these common goals
through the use of mycelium. To do so means we
need to spread awareness and information. Please
spread the word of mycelium. Educate friends,
family and policy makers about mycological
solutions. Bring your local leaders up the
learning curve on how fungi can decompose toxins,
rebuild soils and strengthen our food chains.
What we lack is the widespread availability of
mycologically skilled technicians and educators
and a more mycologically informed public. We need
a paradigm shift, a multi-generational
educational infrastructure, bringing fungal
solutions to the forefront of viable options to
mitigate disasters. An unfortunate circumstance
we face is that the field of mycology is poorly
funded in a time of intense need.
To support this expanded mycological awareness, I
offer my books as resources-especially Mycelium
Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World
and Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms.
Also, please see my talk on Ted.com-this is an
excellent primer for those wanting to understand
how mushrooms and fungi can help mitigate
disasters and heal ecosystems.
Let's become part of the solution. We may not
have all the answers now but we can work towards
an integrated strategy, flexible in its design,
and yet target specific to these types of
disasters. We should work in preparation to
resolve ecological emergencies before and after
they occur. Together, we can protect and heal our
communities and ecosystems.
For the Earth,
THE PROBLEM: OIL IS A COMPLEX MIXTURE OF TOXIC HYDROCARBONS
Not many people, even experts, fully grasp the
diverse range of toxins that are present in oil.
Bunker C oil is used as a fuel, particularly in
cargo ships, and is especially 'dirty'. Here is a
list of some of the hydrocarbons typically found
in Bunker C oil:
CONTAMINANTS IN BUNKER C OIL
C23 Tricyclic Terpane (T4)
C24 Tricyclic Terpane (T5)
C25 Tricyclic Terpane (T6)
C24 Tetracyclic Terpane (T6a)
C26 Tricyclic Terpane-22S (T6b)
C26 Tricyclic Terpane-22R (T6c)
C28 Tricyclic Terpane-22S (T7)
C28 Tricyclic Terpane-22R (T8)
C29 Tricyclic Terpane-22S (T9)
C29 Tricyclic Terpane-22R (T10)
C30 Tricyclic Terpane-22S (T11b)
C30 Tricyclic Terpane-22R
17a/b,21b/a 28,30-Bisnorhopane (T14a)
C30 Tricyclic Terpane-22R 17a(H)-22,29,30-Trisnorhopane-TM (T12)
17a/b,21b/a 28,30-Bisnorhopane (T14a)
TOWARDS AN INTEGRATED SOLUTION: MYCOREMEDIATION RESOURCES
Gadd, G. 2001. Fungi in Bioremediation. Cambridge University Press.
Singh, H. 2006. Mycoremediation: Fungal Bioremediation. Wiley Interscience.
Stamets, P. 2005. Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms
Can Help Save the World. Ten Speed Press,
S. Thomas, P. Becker, M.R. Pinza , J.Q. Word,
1999. "Mycoremediation of Aged Petroleum
Hydrocarbon Contaminants in Soil." NASA no.
S. Thomas, 2000. Personal Communication.
"Subsequently to the end of the study, WSDOT
retested the soils at its own expense, with a
more detailed sampling regime, and found that it
did indeed meet the EPA criterion of less than or
equal to 200 ppm TPH, which allowed WSDOT to use
the soil in highway landscaping." Nov. 30. Email
to Paul Stamets.
V. ·aek, John A. Glaser, Philippe Baveye, 2000.
"The Utilization of Bioremediation to Reduce Soil
Contamination: Problems and Solutions." Nato
Science Series IV. Earth and Environmental
Sciences vol. 19.
M. Bhatt, T. Cajthaml and V. ·aek, 2001.
"Mycoremediation of PAH-contaminated soils."
Folia Microbiologica, Springer Netherlands,Volume
47, Number 3 / June, 2002.
Eggen, T., and V. Sasek. 2002. "Use of edible and
medicinal oyster mushroom [Pleurotus ostreatus
(Jacq.:Fr.) Kimm.] spent compost in remediation
of chemically polluted soils." International
Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 4: 225-261.
T. Cajthaml, M. Bhatt, V. ·aek, and V. Mateju.
2002. "Bioremediation of PAH-contaminated soil by
composting: A Case Study." Folia Microbiologica
T. Cajthaml, M. Moder, P. Kacer, V. ·aek, and P.
Popp. 2002. "Study of fungal degradation products
of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons using gas
chromatography with ion trap mass spectrometry
detection." Journal of Chromatography A, 974:
V. ·aek, 2003. "Why mycoremediations have not
yet come into practice" The Utilization of
Bioremediation to Reduce Soil Contamination:
Problems and Solutions, 247-266. Kluwer Academic
Giubilei, Maria A; Leonardi, Vanessa; Federici,
Ermanno; Covino, Stefano; ·aek, Vaclav; Novotny,
Cenek; Federici, Federico; D'Annibale,
Alessandro; Petruccioli, Maurizio, 2009, June.
"Effect of mobilizing agents on mycoremediation
and impact on the indigenous microbiota." Journal
of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology, Volume
84, Number 6, June 2009, pp. 836-844(9). John
Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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