Presidential address Geomycology: biogeochemical transformations of rocks, minerals, metals and radionuclides by fungi, bioweathering and bioremediation


Geoffrey M. Gadd
Mycological Research Volume 111, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 3–49


The study of the role that fungi have played and are playing in fundamental geological processes can be termed ‘geomycology’ and this article seeks to emphasize the fundamental importance of fungi in several key areas. These include organic and inorganic transformations and element cycling, rock and mineral transformations, bioweathering, mycogenic mineral formation, fungal–clay interactions, metal–fungal interactions, and the significance of such processes in the environment and their relevance to areas of environmental biotechnology such as bioremediation. Fungi are intimately involved in biogeochemical transformations at local and global scales, and although such transformations occur in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats, it is the latter environment where fungi probably have the greatest influence. Within terrestrial aerobic ecosystems, fungi may exert an especially profound influence on biogeochemical processes, particularly when considering soil, rock and mineral surfaces, and the plant root–soil interface. The geochemical transformations that take place can influence plant productivity and the mobility of toxic elements and substances, and are therefore of considerable socio-economic relevance, including human health. Of special significance are the mutualistic symbioses, lichens and mycorrhizas. Some of the fungal transformations discussed have beneficial applications in environmental biotechnology, e.g. in metal leaching, recovery and detoxification, and xenobiotic and organic pollutant degradation. They may also result in adverse effects when these processes are associated with the degradation of foodstuffs, natural products, and building materials, including wood, stone and concrete. It is clear that a multidisciplinary approach is essential to understand fully all the phenomena encompassed within geomycology, and it is hoped that this review will serve to catalyse further research, as well as stimulate interest in an area of mycology of global significance.