In order to generate a positive and lasting impact on carbon sequestration, the development and preservation of forests is of fundamental importance . It is therefore obvious that turning a barren, naked soil into a lush food forest is a highly desirable project. But what can we do if we already have an established forest on our land?
Wild forests offer many resources, ranging from timber to medicinal herbs. With appropriate management, additional value can also be created in already forested land. Guess what grows in shady, somewhat humid environments?
Yup, mushrooms. Fungi are naturally found in symbiosis with the forest. This means that mushrooms and trees cooperate to find resources and protect each other. Trees give shade and sugar to the mushrooms, and these in turn extend the reach of the trees in the soil, coating and protecting the surface of the roots and producing compounds that improve the resistance of the trees against pathogens. In addition, the mycelium (the fungal tissue that lies within the soil) helps in connecting all the roots of the forest together, creating a sort of "natural internet" – resources and information can travel very quickly from one side of the forest to another, thus allowing the individuals to get ready to face the changes in the land. Other mushrooms are responsible for the degradation of fallen trees, returning nutrients back to the soil.
We can use the naturally favorable environment of the forest to grow our own mushrooms, especially those that feed on dead wood. The tree trunks in the forest will degrade anyway, so why not catalyze that process and get something in return? That is one of the projects that we are performing in Byhaven2200 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Hopefully, we’ll see the results in November, or perhaps even earlier. This summer has so far been unusually warm and also quite dry (what's going on, Denmark?) so we are doing our best to keep the mushrooms humid – after all, this is no forest, just a garden in the middle of the city!
But I don't want to finish this publication without highlighting one more fascinating feature of our heterotrophic friends, and this is that bees love them. Yes, you read that right: bees feed on more than just pollen and nectar! Bees can find biochemical compounds in these forest organisms that are crucial for their wellbeing. Don’t forget that bees live in tightly packed colonies (with most of the "packaging" happening in winter) and highly dense populations are prone to suffer epidemics.
Wild fungi can provide preventive natural treatment against pathogens, keeping the hive healthy. So, if you have bees and a forest nearby, I encourage you to plant not only flowers for every season but also some mushrooms to give their immune system a boost. This will make their honey more curative as well!
Check out the video with Paul Stamets below if you want to learn more about bees and fungi: