The Kingdom Fungi, Food Chains & Plastic Pollution

By McLaughlin, Jacqueline S. | The American Biology Teacher, April 2008 | Go to article overview

The Kingdom Fungi, Food Chains & Plastic Pollution


McLaughlin, Jacqueline S., The American Biology Teacher


Looking for a way to link the study of fungi to your students' awareness of our increasingly imperiled global environment?

My biology students at Penn State Lehigh Valley begin studying the fungi kingdom of life by discussing the pivotal roles that fungi play in recycling nutrients. Students are amazed to learn that fungus absorbs nutrients from the environment outside its body. Almost any carbon-containing substrate- even jet fuel and house paint--can be consumed by fungi or bacteria.

The moment my students recover from their amazement at the elegance of our food chain, I ask them to consider whether the damage that humans have done to our environment poses any greater challenge to the fungi kingdom than the one currently swirling around in the "Eastern Garbage Patch."

Also known as the Northern Pacific subtropical gyre, the Patch is a 10-million-square-mile stretch of ocean about 800 miles north of Hawaii. This body of water, and the air above it, normally swirl in a slow, deep, clockwise vortex caused by a mountain of high-pressure air that lingers above it. However, we view photos of a sewer for plastic waste in this desolate place, resulting in a never-ending trash tsunami. In 2007, it was measured to be twice the size of Texas.

In class, we identify plastic bags, nets, ropes, bottles, motor-oil jugs, diapers, toys, razors, toothbrushes, cigarette lighters and more, swirling endlessly in what was once pristine seascape. We speculate about whether fungi might offer one possibility for reducing the size of the Patch.

But plastic polymers, unlike those of living things (proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, DNA, and RNA) which break down, aren't biodegradable. Students come to recognize that fungi are powerless to absorb them.

Next we talk about how this plastic pollution strangles the food chain--foraging birds, dolphins, fish, and sea turtles. Even more alarming, we speculate about what it means to the food chain that microscopic pieces of plastic are drifting like fish food throughout the water, mimicking plankton, the food supply of most aquatic life. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Kingdom Fungi, Food Chains & Plastic Pollution
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.