Importance of Fungi in Human Life

Free Response

Historically, artisanal breads were produced by capturing wild yeasts from the air. Prior to the development of modern yeast strains, the production of artisanal breads was long and laborious because many batches of dough ended up being discarded. Can you explain this fact?

Hint:

The dough is often contaminated by toxic spores that float in the air. It was one of Louis Pasteur’s achievements to purify reliable strains of baker’s yeast to produce bread consistently.

How would treating an area of a forest with a broad-spectrum fungicide alter the carbon and nitrogen cycles in the area?

Hint:

Fungi are important decomposers in ecosystems, ensuring that dead plants and animals are broken down into smaller molecules that can be used by other members of the ecosystem. Without fungi, decaying organic matter would accumulate in the forest. In the carbon cycle, fungi decompose organic matter into small carbon-containing compounds. This process releases carbon dioxide back into the air for plants to use during the carbon-fixation steps of photosynthesis.

In the nitrogen cycle, decomposition by fungi also releases nitrogen for use by living organisms. In this cycle, the nitrogen is released from organic compounds in the form of ammonia.