Crop spraying connected to treatment resistant fungal lung disease

A UK based study by scientists from Manchester University and Radboud University have made a connection between crop-spraying and resistant Aspergillus infection in lungs of people. The study compared the aspergillus fungus in people from North Yorkshire where fungicides are sprayed on to crops with aspergillus found in inner-city Manchester and away from crop-spraying. The researchers found that 1.7% of the fungi samples taken from North Yorkshire were resistant to current treatments while no samples taken from Manchester were found to be drug-resistant. The aspergillus fungi is a common fungus found in the air, soil and water. However for some people it is a deadly condition if it gets into the…

International taxonomists name their Top 10 new species from 2012

In celebration of  Carolus Linnaeus – the scientist who established the naming system for species – the world’s top taxonomists have released their latest Top 10 new species list. The latest list  covers 2012 and is the 6th annual list they have produced. The choice of this years top species covers a wide range of organisms from the most basic of microbes through to a brand new monkey species that was named last year. Most of the species are still alive and well today but there was also a new fossil species included in this years list. There is a nod to the modern world in the list also with…

Tornado boosted occurrances of flesh-eating fungus

Last years tornado that hit Joplin, MO was devastating. It left 160 dead and over 1,000 injured. 5 of those who died had been infected with a usually harmless fungus that tuned into a flesh-eater. 7 others infected survived. The fungus Apophysomyces is found all around us – in the water, soil and air. Normally it is harmless but once it gets deep within the body it turns into an effective killer. When the tornado hit Joplin people became infected from being injured by flying debris. The fungus then gained entry either directly by the debris or later if the fungus can gain entry through the wound. A new study recently…

Fungus treatment makes new violins sound like old Stradivarius

After a rousing season of the Proms on  the BBC the value of high quality instrument makers becomes apparent. This is particular so of the wood section. As a natural material the quality of the sound is attributable not just to the quality of the manufacturer but also the conditions that the wood grew under and the way it is treated. High quality instruments such as  a Stradivarius violin can cost millions of pounds and musicians who are have the privilege of playing these instruments rarely own them but have them on loan from rich benefactors. The opportunities for the majority of musicians to play such instruments are limited especially for…

England’s Green Dozen

England is set to get 12 new wildlife sites following an announcement today by the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The new nature reserves is set to cover hundreds of thousands of hectares of both rural and urban areas and cost up to £7.5 million. The new wildlife projects announced today by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman will see new habitats created and others restored to their former quality. The 12 projects were picked from a total of 76 projects put to the department for funding. [pullquote]Each of these projects has something different to offer – from the urban areas of Birmingham and the Black Country to the rivers…

Nature cleaning up our most dangerous pollution

At a disused oil refinery site in Montreal, Canada, willow trees are growing in highly contaminated soil and deep in the roots the fungi are at work cleaning up the mess humans have left behind. The actions of the fungi are being studied by at team from the University in order to find which species are the most effective. Biological clean up technique. This biological clean up – phytoremediation – is becoming more important is cleaning up contaminated sites but there is still much to learn to understand what are the best combinations of micro-organisms and plants. [pullquote]If we leave nature to itself, even the most contaminated sites will find some sort of balance…

The suicide bite of zombie ants

There’s lots of weird and wonderful life cycles in the natural world but they probably don’t come much stranger than a parasitic fungus in the tropical rain-forest. This beast of a fungus infects ants, destroying their brains before finally forcing the ant to take a suicide bite of a leaf.

Forgotten fungi

Much publicity is given towards tigers, otters, eagles and other animals at risk of extinction; unfortunately, fungi and other cryptogams tend to get little attention. For the past 20 or 30 years the number of, diversity and range of fungi have decreased greatly. What impact will this have on ecosystems? And what is causing these losses? With maybe upto 40% of fungi species in Europe at risk of extinction, over 130 genera are listed in various European Red Lists, plans need to be put into place to prevent further declines. Loss of many of these genera could have permanent negative effects on many types of ecosystems. Fungi plays major roles…