Get access

Geomycology: metals, actinides and biominerals


E-mail; Tel. (+44) 1382 384767; Fax (+44) 1382 388216.


Geomycology can be simply defined as ‘the scientific study of the roles of fungi in processes of fundamental importance to geology’ and the biogeochemical importance of fungi is significant in several key areas. These include nutrient and element cycling, rock and mineral transformations, bioweathering, mycogenic biomineral formation and interactions of fungi with clay minerals and metals. Such processes can occur in aquatic and terrestrial habitats, but it is in the terrestrial environment where fungi probably have the greatest geochemical influence. Of special significance are the mutualistic relationships with phototrophic organisms, lichens (algae, cyanobacteria) and mycorrhizas (plants). Central to many geomycological processes are transformations of metals and minerals, and fungi possess a variety of properties that can effect changes in metal speciation, toxicity and mobility, as well as mineral formation or mineral dissolution or deterioration. Some fungal transformations have beneficial applications in environmental biotechnology, e.g. in metal and radionuclide leaching, recovery, detoxification and bioremediation, and in the production or deposition of biominerals or metallic elements with catalytic or other properties. Metal and mineral transformations may also result in adverse effects when these processes result in spoilage and destruction of natural and synthetic materials, rock and mineral-based building materials (e.g. concrete), acid mine drainage and associated metal pollution, biocorrosion of metals, alloys and related substances, and adverse effects on radionuclide speciation, mobility and containment. The ubiquity and importance of fungi in biosphere processes underlines the importance of geomycology as an interdisciplinary subject area within microbiology and mycology.