Fungal productivity/biomass

Moselio Schaechter mschaech at SUNSTROKE.SDSU.EDU
Sun Jul 27 18:58:58 EST 1997

Dear Mark Toal,

I would like to be included in any response regarding your recent request
for information on the size of the fungal biomass in natural woodland
ecosystems.  I hope that your query will stir up some interest.

The immediate reason for my curiosity is that I took a stab at a figure,
based, as in your case, on rather old information.  I used it in a recent
book of mine mean for a general public (see below).  Notice that I tried to
estimate the fungal biomass in all fungi-bearing soils, not just forests.
Somewhat non-chalantly, I wrote:

"In fact, though we often don't notice them unless we or the crops are
infected, fungi make up a significant proportion of all living matter. I
could not find a calculation for the weight of all the fungi on earth, so I
tried my hand at an estimate. I used a conservative figure for the amount
of fungi per square meter of soil that supports vegetation, 100 grams (less
than a quarter of a pound), and multiplied it by the total area of such
soils. I came up with the figure of 10 trillion kilograms of fungi on
earth. This figure is certainly an underestimate because it does not
include the lichens (part fungi and part algae) that colonize many trees
and rocks, save those in extreme deserts and permanently subzero polar
regions. Even this low count leads to the conclusion that at the very least
there are about two tons of fungi for every one of us."

Best regards,

Elio Schaechter
Author, "In the Company of Mushrooms"
Harvard University Press
ISBN 0-674-44554-6

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