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The use of artificial media in fungal ecology

Boddy, Lynne ORCID:, Crowther, Thomas W. and Maynard, Daniel S. 2018. The use of artificial media in fungal ecology. Fungal Ecology 32 , pp. 87-91. 10.1016/j.funeco.2017.10.007

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Can experiments conducted in agar really help us to understand the complexity of fungal systems? This question has been the focus of persistent and ongoing debate between fungal ecologists that favor reductionist versus holistic approaches. On one hand, artificial media are unrealistic and fail to reflect the heterogeneity and complexity of natural systems. But on the other hand, they offer simplified model systems that allow us to isolate mechanisms that would otherwise be obscured in natural systems. Following various technological advances that enable us to describe various aspects of complex fungal communities in situ, the dial appears to be tipping in favor of observational field studies, and the use of artificial media has declined. However, we argue that the loss of artificial media from experimental studies would impair our capacity to disentangle the complexities of fungal communities. Here, we discuss the pros and cons of artificial media in fungal ecology and outline the types of questions that are best addressed using fungi growing in artificial media. We conclude that renewed emphasis on the value of artificial media could help us to generate the mechanistic understanding that might be critical to explaining the exciting patterns that are emerging from real-world fungal ecology studies.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 1754-5048
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 7 November 2017
Date of Acceptance: 24 October 2017
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2023 05:55

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