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An introduction to poroide fungi

6. Pathological significance

Most polypores are strictly saprotrophic and utilize dead wood as a food source. A few species of Albatrellus, Boletopsis and Coltricia, are terrestrial and utilize soil organic material or are mycorrhizal (Danielson 1984).  The saprotrophic polypores are extremely important in their role as decomposers in recycling of carbon in the world ecosystem. 

Polypores that grow and produce basidiocarps on living hosts are of two kinds. Some are restricted to the non‑living heartwood in living hosts and do not invade and kill the outer living tissues and are commonly referred to as heart rot fungi. 

A relatively small number of polypores, often called biotrophs, are true pathogens and are capable of invading and killing living sapwood and causing death of living hosts. Polypores that are particularly important pathogens in Europe as heart rot fungi include Heterobasidion annosum, Fomitopsis pinicola and Phellinus pini (the major causes of volume losses in conifers), Phellinus igniarius in hardwoods, and numerous other species in various genera. 

Virtually every important timber species in Europe is invaded and decayed by at least one polypore species and most are hosts to several. They are also important causes of decay of timber in houses and other structures, utility poles, pilings, guard rails, mine timbers etc. Most of these are brown rot fungi. 

Gloeophyllum sepiarium and a number of Antrodia spp. are probably the most important polypores that cause decay in houses. Gloeophyllum sepiarium is especially common on wooden roofs due to its high temperature tolerance while the Antrodia spp. occur in basements and similar places where the temperature rarely exceeds 30° C.

Brown rot fungi are also major causes of decay of conifer wood mine timbers and utility poles in Europe. Antrodia serialis, Antrodia xantha and Oligoporus spp. are important in this respect. White rot fungi also decay wood in service but are mainly found on hardwoods. Trametes versicolor and T. hirsuta are examples of white rot fungi in this category. 

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