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The variety of the mycological world is far greater than most people imagine. Tens of thousands of fungal species have been described and many more are known only from the abundance of their genes in soil and water. Fungi are hugely important as agents of wood decay in forests, and, as parasites, they have caused the deaths of millions of people by ravaging crops and reshaping our natural ecosystems.
Fungi also perform a variety of essential functions in ecosystems, and are important to both agriculture and biotechnology. Their importance is now becoming greatly appreciated among scientists, though there is much still to be understood concerning their taxonomy and evolution. This Very Short Introduction highlights the variety and extraordinary natures of fungi, revealing the remarkable facts of fungal biology and the global significance of these enchanting organisms.
1: What is a fungus?
2: Fungal diversity
3: Fungal genetics and life cycles
4: Fungal mutualisms (supportive relationships)
5: Fungi as parasites of plants
6: Fungi and decomposition
7: Fungi in animal health and disease
8: Mushroom picking, mushroom cultivation, and fungal biotechnology
Nicholas P. Money is Professor of Botany and Western Program Director at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is the author of more than 70 peer-reviewed papers on fungal biology and has authored six books, including, Mr. Bloomfield's Orchard: The Mysterious World of Mushrooms, Molds, and Mycologists (OUP, 2002), Mushroom (OUP, 2011) described by Nature magazine as a 'brilliant scientific and cultural exploration', and The Amoeba in the Room: Lives of the Microbes (OUP, 2014).