Using mushrooms to clean oil spills in the Amazon
Decades of oil exploration have contaminated soil and water in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Could mushrooms help clean them up?
Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 05:33 PM
I've already explored how mushrooms could help clean up pollution in disaster zones like Haiti. Now a crowdfunded research project aims to put that principle to work in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where poorly managed oil exploration has created a legacy of polluted groundwater and toxic soils. Using native species that have been identified as being able to thrive in soils contaminated with hydrocarbons, the Amazon Mycorenewal Project (AMP) is hoping to create scalable solutions for breaking down oil and other contaminants.
Here's how Colin Withers, a member of the AMP team, describes the plan:
Previous laboratory testing has proven that certain fungi and microbes have the ability to break down petroleum hydrocarbons and decrease heavy metal concentrations. Our project will be one of the first real-world and large-scale applications of this research. We intend to use native species to develop biofiltration systems, and build them on the outside of petroleum waste pipes. This will prevent more toxins from entering the Amazon and provide clean water for local people.
According to the group's Indiegogo fundraising campaign, key to the AMP strategy is rigorous documentation and transparent publishing of all results, making sure that others can learn from the group's efforts and develop their own solutions accordingly. This commitment extends to the ways the group plans to license and distribute the technologies it develops:
The technologies used in our research will be provided to grassroots NGOs and communities afflicted with oil pollution worldwide at no profit. AMP maintains a commitment to uphold ethics-based business alliances to provide scientific resources and recommendations as deliverable services to communities motivated to clean up contamination in their local watersheds.
Interestingly, AMP may end up having an impact closer to home too. While the initial fundraising goal of $50,000 is focused on efforts in the Ecuadorian Amazon, if the team manages to raise $90,000, they plan to run parallel bioremediation studies cleaning up coal ash-polluted waters in West Virginia too.
Sadly, there's probably no shortage of sites for them to choose from.
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